A message, or you could say, a cry for help has been secretly spread about seeking support for a campaign for better labour standards from third-party factory workers for the high street fashion brand Zara. They work for Bravo Tekstil in Istanbul, who work for one of the largest fashion retailers, Inditex who is Zara’s parent company along with Next and Mango.
Bravo Tekstil reportedly shut down overnight, leaving employees with no work and three months owed wages. According to the workers, the idea is to pressure Zara to pay them the wages they are owed.
How on earth have they been able to reach so many customers in Istanbul and now globally without anyone knowing!?
Believe it or not… through notes that have been slipped into the pockets of garments and that have even been stitched onto the clothes themselves as a label!
One of the messages said: “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it.”
Now, can you think of a note that makes you feel any guiltier?
The way in which the employees have grabbed attention, I think, is extremely clever, (although ‘clever’ may not have been on their agenda and it was done out of pure desperation) to beg consumers directly, pulling on their heart strings rather than fight with the company itself was an ingenious way to get their voices heard.
What is really disgraceful is that Zara has previously been accused of using slave labour to make their clothes. Zara’s founder, Amancio Ortega, recently overtook Bill Gates to become the richest man in the world! The least he could do is pay his workers the fair amount or as some employees have protested ‘give us our basic rights!’
Being a lover of fashion, I follow various social media fashion accounts. This recent fast fashion disaster has been all over my newsfeed in the last few days, the likes of Harper’s Bazaar fashion magazine Facebook page has shared the article and wrote ‘This is shocking!’ Individuals have shed light on the situation with comments ‘this is exactly why I detest fast fashion, these unethical practices continue to plague Inditex, the leader in fast fashion.’
Labour Rights Forum also hopped on the bandwagon and pleaded their twitter followers to sign the petition that currently has 20,336 signatures.
A spokesperson for Inditex stated that a hardship fund for the workers affected by the unexpected disappearance of the Bravo factory’s owner.
“This hardship fund would cover unpaid wages, notice indemnity, unused vacation and severance payments of workers that were employed at the time of the sudden shutdown of their factory in July 2016.
“We are committed to finding a swift solution for all of those impacted. “
I have tried to put myself into the shoes of those customers who found a note, my heart would have sunk, I would have genuinely put the item down and walked out of the store. If the item was already bought I would have returned it without a doubt.
However, considering 50% of my wardrobe comes from Zara, I feel awful that these items could have possibly been made from unpaid and ill-treated employees.
A public relations and ethical disaster, Zara have a huge mess to clean up.
Yet, they are not the only ones guilty of this, public relations and business code of conduct is a global matter for major businesses now and disasters like this could potentially lead to the exposure of other companies exploiting workers.
I have signed the petition, why don’t you?
Laura Duffy is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can find her on Instagram @laura_duffyy and LinkedIn @lauraduffy