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Brazil: Zara held responsible for subcontractor's sweatshop

Date: 19 Aug 2011

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Fashion chain Zara in being investigated by Brazil's ministry of labour following the removal of 15 workers from a factory claimed to be operating as a sweatshop. The factory was subcontracted by AHA, which is responsible for 90 percent of Zara's production in the country.

Zara's parent company, Inditex, has said it will compensate the workers because its contractor had violated its code of conduct. It said that although it was voluntarily offering compensation, it could not be held responsible for outsourcing that had been unauthorised, suggesting that a tiny minority of its clothes - less than one percent - were made in such conditions.

The Brazilian ministry disagrees, arguing that so much of AHA's business was with Zara, this made it "a logical extension of its main client." It said that Zara had a duty to know who was producing its clothes and in what conditions.

The workers, who were mostly Bolivians, were said to have lived on the factory premises and worked in 12-hour shifts in "dangerous conditions" for less than the legally required minimum wage.

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