Zara probed over slave labour claims

High street fashion retailer Zara is under investigation over the alleged use of slave labour at factories in Argentina, it has been reported.

Immigrant workers, including children, were discovered by the workers’ rights group, La Alameda, producing clothes for the label in “degrading” sweatshop conditions, investigators claimed.

The mostly Bolivian labourers claimed they were made to work more than 13 hours a day and were prevented from leaving the factories without permission.

Garments being sewn at one workshop in Buenos Aires were said to include items from the Zara Man fashion line sold in British stores.

Juan Gomez Centurion, head of the country’s health and safety watchdog, which raided three factories allegedly producing Zara clothes last week, said: “We found men and children who lived in places 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.”

Zara is part of Inditex, the Spanish company controlled by the billionaire Amancio Ortega.

A company spokesman said: “We are surprised by the allegations. Based on the limited information we have received so far, the workshops in question do not appear to have any relationship with our approved suppliers in Argentina.

“We are keen to work with La Alameda to understand the substance of their allegations, but we have received no contact from them regarding these claims, nor have we had any contact or complaint from the Argentinian authorities.” He added that Zara has 60 Argentinian manufacturers and in the past two years had conducted 300 audits of suppliers and factories, but would cooperate with any investigation.

Authorities raided the factories following a tip-off from La Alameda.

A spokesman for La Alameda, Gustavo Vera, said people at the factory were made to start at 7am and work without a break until 11pm, six days a week.

In 2011, a group of workers 14 Bolivians and one Peruvian were rescued from an unlicensed factory in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where clothes carrying the Zara label were being produced.