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ISTANBUL — Customers shopping at Zara, the fast fashion retailer owned by the world’s largest apparel company, Inditex, recently found something unusual in their purchases – notes from workers who had made the clothing saying they had not been paid for their work. The notes were found in clothing purchased at Inditex’s Istanbul store in Turkey.

Associated Press claims workers from a supplier manufacturer for Zara – Brazo Teksil – and other retailers have been going into Zara shops and leaving the tags. One of the tags says: “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it.” The tag also encourages shoppers to back a campaign and pressure Zara into paying them.

The tags claim workers were employed by Bravo, which closed down over-night and that the manufacturer owes them three months’ pay as well as severance allowance.

Turkey is one of the largest manufacturers of clothing in the world, and the largest exporter of garments from the European Union, by some distance. The country has come under fire for host of CSR issues relating to workers employed in its textile sector, much of which is informal and depends heavily on migrant and non-unionised workers.

The migrant element of its workforce has increased notably in recent years as migrants have entered the country from war-torn Syria. However, there have been claims by campaigning NGOs that many of the workers have been exploited. There are also ongoing concerns about under-age workers.

The issue of notes being placed in items of clothing is nothing particularly new, with other brands such as Primark having been the target of such tactics in recent years. There have also been reports of fake notes been found.

The fact the recipient here is Inditex is unfortunate. The business actually has a decent record on worker rights issues and has done much to improve the collective bargaining power of workers in its supply chain in countries such as Vietnam. This work has been carried out with Industriall Global Union which is helping to increase unionisation and collective bargaining among workers within Inditex’s supplier factories.

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