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Zara workers in Spain start protests to demand higher pay

FILE PHOTO: A customer looks at clothes at Zara store in Barcelona

By Corina Pons

MADRID (Reuters) - Dozens of Zara shop assistants protested in Madrid on Thursday outside the global fashion giant's largest store to demand higher pay, and some workers in its home town in northwest Spain went on strike on the eve of its Black Friday sales campaign.

Zara owner Inditex agreed last week to pay a one-off bonus of 1,000 euros ($1,041) to all full-time shop workers in Spain in February, according to unions that are seeking better wages for their members in the face of galloping inflation.

Inditex has also offered to gradually raise monthly wages by around 200 euros by 2024, a proposal accepted by two of Spain's largest union groups, UGT and Comisiones Obreras, but rejected by the protesters who are demanding at least double that.

"Inditex is increasing its prices and improving its profits, while employees' wages are lagging behind," said Anibal Maestro, a leader of the CGT union, which called the rally in Madrid.

Protesters carried signs saying "We made you a millionaire, you give us precarious pay" and "I work for Inditex but don't make it to the end of the month".

"We want a real wage rise...not the 1,000 euros bonus offered as candy," Maestro said.

In the town of A Coruna, where the first Zara store opened in 1975, Inditex now has 44 stores. Two of those, a Zara store and a Massimo Dutti shop were closed on Thursday, and some 1,000 shopworkers were preparing to go on a one-day strike the following day on Black Friday.

Shop assistants' monthly wages at Inditex stores in Madrid and A Coruna are below 1,400 euros, according to the unions.

That compares with around 2,000 euros for a warehouse worker, said Carmina Naveiro, a union leader in A Coruna who has worked at Zara for more than two decades, adding that online orders had increased shop assistants' workloads.

"If we don't get better wages we will call for more protests in December and January," she said.

Inditex employs 165,000 people in 177 countries. About 86% work in its 6,477 shops.

($1 = 0.9603 euros)

(Reporting by Corina Pons, editing by Andrei Khalip, Kirsten Donovan)