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Zara contractor in Brazil accused of slave labor

August 24, 2011 | 10:20 am

Zara store brazil

Brazil's labor ministry is investigating a supplier for the Spanish clothing brand Zara for allegations of slave-labor conditions at sweatshops in Sao Paolo, and is also opening labor investigations against other international companies, reports O Globo, a Brazilian daily newspaper (link in Portuguese, in automatic translation). 

Zara's parent company, Inditex, said it was unaware of what it called "unauthorized outsourcing" for Zara clothing in Brazil. The company faces fines and possible sanctions against future economic activity in the country. Zara maintains more than 1,000 stores worldwide, including retail locations across Latin America, Europe, Asia, the United States and the Middle East.

In Sao Paolo, migrants primarily from Bolivia -- including minors and undocumented immigrants -- were found to be producing Zara clothes in sweatshops with poor ventilation and hygiene and unacceptable fire risks. Workers were being paid a little more than $1 for jeans that would eventually retail at more than $100, and some were locked into paying their wages to human traffickers who smuggled them into the country, reports said. The clothes, made by a supplier identified as AHA, were destined for Zara stores in Brazil.

Brazilian labor authorities are now expanding their investigation by requesting information on work conditions from several other major companies producing clothes in Brazil, including Ecko and Billabong, O Globo reported.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: A Zara storefront in Brazil. Credit: O Globo

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