The Spanish fashion retailer Zara and its parent company Inditex are facing investigation by Brazil’s Ministry of Labor and 52 charges following a raid at one of their manufacturing facilities in Brazil. Local authorities received a tip from a workers’ rights group, La Alameda, and subsequently found 15 workers in the facility, one of which was only 14 years old. Workers claim they’ve been forced to work for 12 to 13 hours per day, six to seven days per week.
Though Zara and the parent company Inditex deny any knowledge or involvement in the unlicensed sweatshop, they have offered to reimburse the workers, 14 Bolivians and one Peruvian, for their mistreatment. According to an Inditex spokesperson, they contract with 50 suppliers who produced seven million garments during 2012.
A spokesperson from Zara said the company has conducted 300 audits of their manufacturing facilities in the past two years and had no reason to suspect these conditions existed. Apparently, the sweatshop was subcontracted from one of Zara’s licensed suppliers, AHA, who makes 90 percent of the company’s clothing. The workers were making clothing for the Zara Men line, sold in 1,540 stores around the world, including 64 stores in the U.K.
Authorities maintain the workers were not allowed to leave the facility. For making a pair of jeans to sell for $126 in stores, seven workers involved in the process split $1.14. Though the minimum wage in Brazil is $344 per month, these workers were making between $156 and $290. Zara and the parent company Inditex have stated they are cooperating with the investigation fully.
In an earlier report, a spokesperson from Zara denied the sweatshop in Brazil had any known relations with any of their authorized suppliers. News of the sweatshop raid and claims by the activist group who reported the conditions broke in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. The group La Alameda has not yet made a public statement about the events.