The Spanish company Inditex , which owns the Zara brand, says it will investigate the alleged use of children to sew their shoes through a factory subcontracted in Portugal, according to the weekly magazine Expresso.
The aforementioned magazine publishes a report on child labor in Portugal centered on Carlitos and Miguel, two children aged 11 and 14 , respectively, who sew Zara brand shoes inside their homes.
They live in the rural area of Felgueiras, in the north of Portugal, a very depressed region, where textile factories and shoe factories once closed. “Carlitos, 11 years: € 0.20 per shoe,” headlines the cover of the exclusive ‘Expresso’ supplement, which includes the report. In the information, Carlitos says that for each pair they sew they are paid 40 cents, so if they sew 50 pairs, they will give them 20 euros.
Cover of the supplement ‘Única’, from the weekly ‘Expresso’, which includes the report.
A pair of shoes like the one he sews cost 40 euros in a store in Porto, says the publication, which stresses that Sunday is World Children’s Day.
The interior pages show images of children sewing shoes with the seal of the aforementioned brand and with hands protected by thick leather thimbles.
The weekly ‘Expresso’, in an additional information to the report leaves Inditex talking about the case denounced. The Spanish company explains to the magazine that it managed to find out that the shoes are produced in a factory subcontracted in the northern region of the country and that an audit carried out last year to this company did not observe anything about child exploitation.
“This is a very serious case. We have a very rigid code of conduct, which prohibits child labor in our external companies , “ the statement said. “We will confirm this first, but if it is true, Inditex will be relentless. That factory will stop working for our group,” says the source.
The leader of the Portuguese Footwear Union, Jose Guimaraes, explained that the shoes are distributed in vans by intermediaries for the houses of the region.
“At the end of the day, the van will pick up the work already sewn and deliver more shoes to sew,” said Guimaraes, noting that a family can sew between 100 and 150 shoes in a day, so they receive between 20 and 30 Euros.
The trade unionist considered that this amount is pittance, but that in many occasions this is the only money that enters the houses.
In 2002, the International Labor Organization (ILO) denounced that in Spain there could be 200,000 workers under the age of 14, “many of whom work in small companies under subcontracting conditions, especially in the footwear industry.”
Inditex’s communications cabinet reported that in the past year about 400 companies have been stopped working for the Spanish company for “violating Inditex’s code of conduct on child labor, freedom of association, health, safety or the environment.”
Inditex was incorporated in October 2005 into the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), an organization that brings together international distribution companies, large suppliers, unions and NGOs, with the aim of improving the living conditions of suppliers’ workers.