Fashion retailer Zara says it is working on establishing a hardship fund to reimburse a group of Turkish workers who were left unpaid when a supplier factory closed down.
Zara customers in Istanbul found notes from Turkish workers in the pockets of in-store garments asking shoppers to back their campaign to pressure Zara into paying them wages they say they are owed.
The note said third-party manufacturer Bravo Tekstil, which supplies Zara, closed down overnight in July 2016, leaving 140 workers owed three months wages and severance allowances. Bravo Tekstil also manufactures garments for high street brands Mango and Next.
The note asked consumers to sign an online petition to support their campaign for reimbursement.
Turkish consumers tweeted the note they found in the garments.
The worker’s campaign was organised by the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), the garment industry’s largest alliance of labour unions and NGOs, which focuses on the improvement of working conditions in the garment and sportswear industries.
The CCC said after the workers sought justice in a Turkish court and won their case last year, they were legally owed the full three months of wages and severance payments.
However, after their immediate boss— the factory owner— disappeared, Zara, Next and Mango all refused to take responsibility for the 140 workers and their missing wages.
The campaign states the workers are asking a total of 2,739,281.30 Turkish Lira (€650,000), which the CCC says Zara-owner Inditex, Mango and Next have the power and capacity to pay.
Bego Demir, spokesman for CCC, said that after more than a year of negotiation, Zara, Next and Mango had not been able to come up with a settlement to fully compensate all 140 workers in the factory.
He said the brands would cover only a fourth of the amount agreed upon by the workers.
“Brands are principal employers—they have proven time and time and again that they control every aspect of their orders to their suppliers,” he said.
“Therefore, it is clear that it is in their power to make sure that all workers who produce their apparel receive their monthly wages and are working in safe conditions.”
Worth an estimated £8.6bn, Zara is largely credited for being one of the world’s most successful high street brands.
Responding to the reports, Spain-based Inditex said it is working with a trade union and retailers Mango and Next for a fund to help the workers affected by the factory’s sudden closure.
“We are committed to finding a swift solution for all of those impacted,” it said.
“Inditex has met all of its contractual obligations to Bravo Tekstil and is currently working on a proposal with the local IndustriALL [global trade union] affiliates, Mango and Next to establish a hardship fund for the workers affected by the fraudulent disappearance of the Bravo factory’s owner.”
It added the hardship fund would cover all unpaid wages, notice indemnity, unused vacation and severance payments of workers that were employed at the time of the sudden shutdown of their factory.
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