It has come to the attention of the Brazilian authorities that Zara, the Spanish fashion chain and one of the largest in the world, has been using a contractor in São Paulo that was subjecting garment workers to sweatshop conditions. According to ‘The Guardian’ newspaper…”The Brazilian government has listed 52 charges against Inditex, Zara’s parent company, after it “rescued” 15 workers from a factory sub-contracted by AHA, the company responsible for 90% of Zara’s Brazilian production. Fourteen of the workers were Bolivians and one was from Peru. One was only 14 years old.”
Inditex released a statement saying that they can not be held accountable for “unauthorized outsourcing” but would compensate the workers because AHA had violated Inditex’s code of conduct. The response has not satisfied Brazilian authorities and they released a statement of their own by the lead prosecutor in the case. “AHA is a logistical extension of its main client, Zara Brasil,” said the prosecutor, Giuliana Cassiano Orlandi. “The company is responsible for its employees. Its raison d’être is making clothes and it follows that it must know who is producing its garments.”
Renato Bignami, who led the investigation, said the workers – who lived on the premises – worked 12-hour shifts in dangerous and unhealthy conditions. One Bolivian migrant worker stated that the labor component of a pair of Zara jeans selling at $126 (£76) was $1.14, which was divided between the seven people involved in the process. The workers earned between $156 and $290 a month. The minimum wage in Brazil is $344. The investigation began after unions reported last June that sweatshops in São Paulo were producing garments for Zara.
The following is a statement by lead investigator Renato Bignami: “They work 16 or even 18 hours a day,” he said. “It is extremely exhausting work, from Monday to Saturday, sometimes even Sunday depending on demand. I’ve seen workers who have taken home R$150-250 (£57-94) at the end of the month – after paying off housing debt, food debt, telephone card debt, debt [to people traffickers] for the journey here. Many have to work for three or four months to pay off the “coyotes” who have smuggled them into the country.” “These are classic cases of immigrant sweatshops,” Bignami said, adding that he had no doubt that such labor conditions characterized modern-day slavery. Workers often face “threats, coercion, physical violence. All this to increase productivity,” he added. To read the full article on ‘The Guardian’, published online on August 18th, 2011 please visit the following link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/18/zara-brazil-sweatshop-accusation
There have been some recent developments to this case since the accusations were first leveled at Zara.