Factory workers use Zara clothing tags to seek back wages, after factory owner leaves them in a lurch

Key Points
  • Tags on clothes at Zara stores in Istanbul said workers were not paid.
  • Workers say they are owed severance and three-months pay from factory owner that fled overnight
  • Zara's parent, Inditex, has paid the factory its due and has set up a fund to support the workers
A shopper exits a fashion retailer Zara branch in an Istanbul upscale neighbourhood, Friday, Nov. 3, 2017. Shoppers at Zara in Istanbul have found unusual tags on their garments: put there by Turkish workers complaining they have not been paid for the manufacturing the merchandise in the store.
Lefteris Pitarakis | AP

"I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn't get paid for it."

So reads tags found on clothes at Zara stores in Istanbul.

The workers are from Bravo Tekstil, an apparel factory in the city, which makes clothes for Zara, Mango and Next. The facility abruptly shut down roughly a year ago, when its owner disappeared along with its money.

Zara had paid the factory its due, but that money did not make its way into the pockets of the workers. Workers are been campaigning to get three months of back wages and severance they say they are owed. There is a petition for the cause.

The issue made its way back into the news last week, when the workers went into Zara stores to bemoan their cause on clothes that have already been manufactured.

Zara's parent company Inditex has set up a hardship fund to raise money "for the workers affected by the fraudulent disappearance of the Bravo factory's owner." It began to put together the fund shortly after the factory owner disappeared.

"Inditex has met all of its contractual obligations to Bravo Textil 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," said Inditex in a statement.

"We are committed to finding a swift solution for all of those impacted."

Inditex, which is based in Spain and has a market capitalization of 97 billion euros ($113 billion), is one of the world's largest fashion retailers. It owns 7,405 stores and employs 162,450. The company has helped to reshape the fashion industry with its ability to quickly produce and turnaround cheaper fashion items.