image: Zara image: Zara

Shoppers in at least one of Zara’s outposts in Instanbul have reportedly found unusual tags affixed to the garments, which include pleas from Turkish workers, who say they have not been paid for working to manufacture the Spanish fast fashion giant’s garments and accessories. According to the Associated Press, workers from a supplier factory for Zara, as well as Next and Mango, have been going into Zara shops and leaving the tags inside clothes.

One of the tags, which have been tied to garment workers formerly employed by the now-defunct Bravo Tekstil factory in Istanbul, reads, “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it,” and urges consumers to help back their cause and call on Zara to pay its suppliers fair wages.

Many individuals formerly employed by Bravo are demanding back wages and severance after working without payment for three months before Bravo abruptly shut down its business overnight in July 2016. Following a favorable ruling from a labor court in Turkey and more than a year of negotiation Zara, Next, and Mango have not been able to reach a settlement to fully compensate the 140 workers, who were employed by Bravo.

As reported by the Clean Clothes Campaign in September, “The workers have sought justice in Turkish court and won their case. Legally they are owed the full three months of wages and severance payments. As over one year since the closure of the factory in July 2016 there is no satisfactory solution in sight yet, the workers, supported by the union, decided to launch an online petition. They are calling upon conscious consumers to support their campaign for reimbursement for their three months of unpaid labor.”

“Brands are principal employers. They have proven time and again that they control every aspect of their orders to their suppliers. 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, and morally they must do so,” says Bego Demir of Clean Clothes Campaign Turkey.

Not New News

Sudden factory closures are not uncommon in the garment industry, in which competition is fierce and capital flexible, nor is the practice of garment workers attempting to reach consumers in furtherance of their causes.

In December 2015, Primark, the retailer known as “a relentless curator and promoter of clothes so ridiculously cheap,” came under fire after a shopper found a distress note in one of its products. A shopper recently found a note allegedly written by a factory worker in China that was hidden in a pair of Primark socks and claimed that the socks were made in substandard working conditions.

This came on the heels of a similar incident in 2014 when a shopper who purchased a dress from the Ireland-based fast fashion retailer discovered a hand stitched label sewn inside the garment reading: “Forced to work exhausting hours.” The earlier case has since been deemed a publicity stunt to shed light on the working conditions employed in the factories of fast fashion suppliers.

And still yet, those instances came after  another U.K. shopper, who purchased Primark socks in the company’s Huddersfield store, allegedly found a handwritten note by Ting Kun Ding, who claimed to have been imprisoned for blackmail for having tried to expose corrupt government officials in China.

For a more in-depth look at the working conditions for many of the individuals in the garment manufacturing industry, you can find that here.

UPDATED (November 3, 2017): A spokesperson for Inditex told TFL, Inditex has met all of its contractual obligations to Bravo Tekstil and is currently working on a proposal with the local IndustriALL affiliate, Mango and Next to establish a hardship fund for the workers affected by the fraudulent 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.”