Reports have surfaced from Argentina that the Spanish brand has continued to utilize factories previously closed by the South American country's government due to severe hygiene and safety concerns. According to CNN Espanol, at least two Argentinian companies, along with Zara, are also being cited for manufacturing in the sweatshops.
The factories in question employed mostly undocumented immigrants, some children, who allegedly worked long hours in unsafe conditions for meager wages. At one such sweatshop in Buenos Aires, items from the Zara Man fashion line with a 'Made in Argentina' label were discovered, spurring the citation against Zara.
The investigation comes just months after deadly fires destroyed two factories in Bangladesh--one of which allegedly produced goods for Zara parent company Inditex SA. Inditex denied knowingly doing business with the factory and blamed its suppliers, whom it's since suspended, for illegally subcontracting the business out. Other companies whose factories were involved in the blaze, as well as the retail industry as a whole, are also rethinking the manufacturing process and how best to protect themselves against illegal subcontracting in the area. Now, they may want to take a look at their production process in South America.
Per Daily Mail, Juan Gomez Centurion, head of Argentina's Government Control Agency, which raided the factories in Argentina last week, said the investigators found "men and children who lived in the place where they worked... They were not registered and they were living in terrible conditions. They had no official documents and were held against their will, they were not allowed to leave their workplaces without permission."
Workers' rights NGO La Alameda alleges that the factory workers, who are mostly Bolivian, were forced to work in poorly lit, unventilated conditions Monday through Saturday, from 7am to 11pm, with no breaks.
Inditex denies any wrong-doing, telling the Daily Mail in a statement that it is "surprised" by the allegations and that Argentinian authorities have yet to be in touch. Adding that Inditex would willingly cooperate with any future investigation, the spokesperson said this: "From the limited information we have, which are the addresses of the workshops, they have no relationship with our suppliers and manufacturers in [Argentina]."
Back in August 2011, Zara vowed to clean up its act after Inditex was discovered to have sourced from Brazilian factories keeping their workers in "slave-like" conditions. The company was forced to pay approximately $530K in fines, along with rightful compensation of its workers.
We've reached out to Zara for further comment regarding the investigation in Argentina and will update when we hear back. Do these allegations affect your willingness to shop at Zara?