An investigative report out of Brazil has found that Zara's Brazilian suppliers contracted with factories which subjected workers to hazardous "slave-like" working conditions and employed at least one girl aged 14.
According to Repórter Brasil, who broke the story, and Made in Brazil (who translated the report), AHA Indústria e Comércio de Roupas Ltda., a supplier that Zara uses to contract with factories to produce their garments in Brazil, has been under investigation by São Paulo’s Bureau of Labor and Employment since May. The Bureau of Labor and Employment found that 52 people were working in unsafe and unsanitary conditions at at one of the factories contracted by AHA Indústria to produce pants for Zara Brazil. Workers were made to work 16-hour shifts in windowless factories, earning only between R$274 and R$460 a month (that's $170 to $286), which is below Brazil's minimum wage of R$545 ($339) .
In another inspection, a 14-year-old girl was found working "under slave-like conditions" at another factory in São Paulo contracted by AHA Indústria for Zara. Made in Brazil reports that 91% of of AHA Indústria's production was contracted by Zara Brazil and that AHA was in direct contact with Zara's headquarters in Spain, sending them samples for approval.
Zara has been charged with 52 infractions by the Ministry of Labor and Employment in Brazil. Fiscal auditor Giuliana Cassiano Orlandi, who is involved in the investigation, told Repórter Brasil that Zara “should be responsible for all of its suppliers, and it is a duty of the company to be aware of how its merchandise is being produced.” The report also suggests that there are 30 other factories with similar working conditions producing for Zara in Brazil.
Inditex, the group that owns Zara, has issued a statement in which they deny knowledge that their supplier, AHA AHA Indústria, contracted with factories that employed workers illegally. "This action goes against Inditex’s Code of Conduct and the company has zero tolerance for infringements of this kind," the release states. "This case constitutes a grave infringement of the Inditex Code of Conduct for External Manufacturers and Workshops, a code with which this supplier was contractually obligated to comply with. The Code of Conduct stipulates the requirements with which all suppliers, whether direct or subcontracted, must comply, and aims to safeguard workers’ rights to the fullest extent."
Zara has since taken action to "immediately rectify the situation."
Read the full release:
It has been reported that one of Inditex’s Brazilian suppliers engaged in unauthorised subcontracting of work to a factory in Brazil. 15 workers were found to be employed illegally by a subcontractor, without Inditex’s knowledge. This action goes against Inditex’s Code of Conduct and the company has zero tolerance for infringements of this kind. Inditex Group wishes to state the following:
-This case constitutes a grave infringement of the Inditex Code of Conduct for External Manufacturers and Workshops, a code with which this supplier was contractually obligated to comply with. The Code of Conduct stipulates the requirements with which all suppliers, whether direct or subcontracted, must comply, and aims to safeguard workers’ rights to the fullest extent.
-Upon learning of the case, Inditex demanded that the supplier responsible for the fraudulent subcontracting arrangement immediately rectify the situation. The supplier has accepted full responsibility, and is paying financial compensation to the workers as required by Brazilian law and the Inditex Code of Conduct. Meanwhile, the supplier will upgrade the subcontractor’s working conditions in order to bring them into line with those at facilities audited and approved by the Inditex Group’s inspection process. Brazil’s Ministry of Labour and Employment has moved to legalise the workers’ employment status.
- Inditex, in conjunction with the Brazilian Ministry of Labour and Employment, will strengthen oversight of its production system, both at this supplier and at the other companies with which it works in Brazil, for the purpose of preventing similar cases in the future.
Inditex in Brazil has a stable supplier base of approximately 50 companies, which together account for more than 7,000 workers. The Inditex social audit system enables the company to guarantee that overall working conditions throughout Inditex’s Brazilian production chain, which manufactures several million garments each year, meet optimum standards.
Inditex annually conducts more than 1,000 audits of its suppliers worldwide to enforce compliance with its Code of Conduct. In cases in which auditors detect non-compliance issues, Corrective Action Plans are implemented. A cornerstone of this is activation of a dialogue with all agents involved in the supply chain: local and international trade unions, suppliers, business management organisations, governments, non-governmental organisations, etc.
The Inditex Group is grateful to the Brazilian Ministry of Labour and Employment for its work on this case and for its willingness to collaborate with Inditex to foster the best conditions possible in the Brazilian textile industry.