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“I made this garment that you are going to buy but they did not pay me for it!”
That is the curious message that shoppers find in Zara stores in Istanbul, Turkey, on labels that accompany garments, hidden in the crease of some pants or in the pocket of a jacket.
Who is placing these secret messages as if he were a prisoner in a World War II drama ?
The labels were placed by the workers of a Turkish textile company, Bravo Tekstil, which manufactures clothes for Zara and other major international brands such as Next and Mango.
The factory went bankrupt overnight, in July 2016, and its employees claimed that they were not paid for a period before closing.
Now, they are asking Zara to compensate them for losses and pay their back pay for three months plus unemployment.
“One morning we got to work and the firm was not in. The windows were sealed, the bosses had disappeared,” said Filiz Tutya, one of the employees of Bravo Tekstil.
“We had no choice but to start this campaign, we put these labels on the garments of all Zara stores in every shopping center in Istanbul, we do not want to hurt Zara, it’s not about that, but we want what they owe us.”
Another employee, Betul Sahin, said: “Some of us had to postpone our marriages for financial reasons, others we can not send our children to school.”
“It is possible that this amount of money is not important for everyone, but for us, every penny counts, we have worked hard, we asked Zara: ‘Why do not they pay us? Why do not they recognize our right? basic?'”
Thousands of signatures
Since the beginning of the campaign, thousands of people have posted support messages on social networks with the hashtag indicated on the #BravoIscileriIcinAdalet tags , which means “Justices for Bravo workers”.
The online petition has already obtained more than 270,000 signatures .
The parent company of Zara, Inditex, maintains that it paid Bravo Tekstil all that it owed , but that the money did not reach the pockets of the employees.
The company claims to have formedan emergency fund of US $ 246,000 to assist the needs of the most vulnerable employees, including those of the Next and Mango brands.
“There is unfair suffering here and we are very sorry that these workers have to endure it ,” said Murat Akkun, Inditex sustainability manager in Turkey.
“But it is not us but the local firm and its boss that have caused this suffering, he has escaped justice, the Turkish courts must find this man and force him to pay everything he owes.”
In a statement, Zara added that “we take immediate action to help workers in this unfair situation and Inditex remains committed to being part of joint efforts to find a solution for workers.”
However, the union that represents the workers, DISK Tekstil, emphasizes that if Inditex does not compensate each of the employees for lost salaries, they will continue with their campaign .
“Zara announces to the entire world that it is responsible for each of the employees that manufactures its products ,” said Asalettin Arslanoglu, of DISK Tekstil. ” The fund they proposed barely covers a quarter of the employees’ losses .”
“Among these employees there are cancer patients, there are some who suffered strokes, if the brands do not compensate all these 153 workers, we will continue to create awareness with this campaign.”
The Spanish company Inditex is one of the largest retailers of retail fashion in the world, with 7,405 stores and 162,450 employees.
Its main brand is Zara, which was previously targeted, after being accused of having enslaved and underage workers , as well as exploiting Syrian refugees.
The Inditex group promised to investigate these incidents and strengthen the supervision of the properties of the supplier manufacturers.