The Mancunion

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Top high street clothing companies to blame for ‘horrors of Italian sweatshops’

-University of Manchester researcher condemns existence of Zara sweatshops
-H&M “expanding by following this model”
– Zara and H&M deny allegations


Top high street clothing companies have been blamed for the “horrors of Italian sweatshops” in a report published by a University of Manchester researcher.

Dr Jerónimo Montero’s report alleges the existence of sweatshops making garments for high street giant Zara in Buenos Aires and Prato, Italy.

The report claims that workers spend months locked away, work for 17 hours a day, and sleep where they work – all to earn as little as £240 a month.

Dr Montero spoke to two sources in putting together the report that confirmed the sweatshop process – an officer in the Labour Inspectorate, a central government body, and members of La Alameda, a neighbourhood assembly who aim to solve local problems in public life.

A spokesperson for Zara’s parent company, Inditex, labelled the claims “unspecific allegations.”

“Our audit system allows us to guarantee that working conditions in the Inditex supply chain in Italy and Argentina, as in the rest of the world, are appropriate,” said the spokesperson. “Any incompliance is immediately detected and corrected in the shortest term.”

Dr Montero’s report goes on to say Zara’s demands for “permanent rotation of designs and models, and cheap prices” – can “only be met by sweatshops.”

“Let me point out that [Inditex] started its activities as a textile manufacturer prior to enter [sic] retail”, the Zara spokesperson continued. “Our 12 self-owned factories in Spain are responsible of a very significant part of production and directly connected with a relevant proportion of proximity production in Spain, Portugal and Morocco, representing 65% of total product traded by Inditex.”

“Zara’s statements are the usual rhetoric used by companies when accused of sweatshop practices,” Dr Montero said.

He continued: “The type of marketing strategy that the company has developed necessitates production of a significant amount of its garment in informal inner-city sweatshops in proximity to the markets, as well as in sweatshops abroad.”

The report also claims that the Swedish high street giant H&M are “expanding by following the Zara model.”

Chloe Bowers, a spokesperson for H&M, denied the claims, “H&M does not own any factories, our goods are bought from almost 700 independent suppliers, primarily in Asia.

“The company’s Code of Conduct was drawn up in 1997. Compliance with the requirements of the Code is monitored through our Full Audit Programme (FAP).”

“To defend themselves from these accusations, companies repeatedly state that it is impossible for them to control the whole subcontracting chain,” stated Dr. Montero. “However, the prices they offer to some subcontractors can only be met by small and medium manufacturers exploiting their workers in sweatshop conditions.”

  • Tom

    I have had terrible customer service at a Zara here in the UK. I wanted to return/exchange an item that I had (shouldn’t have) bought from Zara. Because I work 7 days a week I was unable to return the item within the 30 day refund period. Completely ignoring and brushing aside my extenuating circumstances, they point-blank refused to return the items or for that matter an exchange.

    The staff (especially the store manager and the menswear manager) (Rebecca) became very defensive and dismissive, abrupt and otherwise unwilling to engage in a conversation. Despite myself being a regular customer, there was no flexibility or empathy on their part or any attempt to resolve the issue by showing goodwill.

    They stated that the primary reason for not allowing me to exchange or return the items was that they had changed seasons and thus they would be unable to re-sell the items. Previously the staff were more than happy to help and assist me when SELLING things to me – but apparently customer service and their friendly attitudes go completely out of the window as soon as they are not able to make money from you i.e. you are returning something.

    Welcome to Zara Clothing. They are happy to take your money but if you ever have a problem or an issue, expect terrible customer service. Expect them to be defensive and dismissive, abrupt and otherwise unwilling to engage in a conversation. Expect a LACK of flexibility or empathy on their part or any attempt to resolve the issue by showing goodwill. But of-course, they will be more then happy to sell you some more things and take your money!

    They have now lost yet another customer and future revenue all for their desire to save £9 (by not returning the item) due to their greed and their rigid and inflexible customer service. Very clever business strategy!

    I will be shpping elsewhere from now on. there are plenty of alternatives: H & M, FCUK, GAP, Levi’s, John Lewis, Debenhams, Next, BANK etc. Explore the options!