Zara, the main brand of the Inditex group, controlled by 60% by the billionaire Amancio Ortega, the third fortune in the world according to the Forbes Ranking, precarizes its productive force in Chile with poor working conditions.
The workers have decided to organize themselves into a single union and today they are fighting for a more dignified job.
Equal Times spoke with the president of the Trade Union Zara Chile, Carmencita Verdugo , who pointed out that the bad work practices of the clothing multinational are extensive on a planetary scale “what Zara does is sell image, but behind it hides the precariousness of the life of many people. “
Ortega’s company has been discovered links to slave labor of immigrants in countries such as Brazil and Argentina.
It does not do it directly, but it does it by subcontracting tailoring and sewing workshops.
In Brazil, he had to pay a fine of 1.3 million euros, but as the union leader tells us, “Zara is a company that prefers to pay fines rather than correcting their bad work practices.”
Labor legislation inherited from the dictatorship
Aware that a worker not only has duties, but also rights, Carmencita Vergara, after becoming president of the Zara Chile Trade Union, went out with her colleagues to fight.
Of the 600 workers that the company has today, 80% are affiliated to the union.
“We wanted to change the paradigm of what a trade union organization means, we wanted to educate the trade union movement, our colleagues and thus be empowered,” says Vergara, who despite the constant refusal of the employer, struggles to assert the voice of the organized workers.
The basic salaries correspond to the minimum salary (276 euros), for a day of 9 hours a day and 45 a week. To this is added 3% of sales made, a percentage that was previously 2% and that after successful negotiation of the union was able to increase by one point.
But in the company of the billionaire, a large part of the workers can only opt to have a part-time work of 20 hours per week, which proportionally means a base of 122 euros per month.
Vergara recognizes that beyond the bad labor policy of the company, it plays against the unequal labor legislation in Chile , which favors the employer over the workers, with mechanisms inherited from the dictatorship and that remain in force, such as the replacement during the strike and others that are at the expense of collective bargaining.
ILO Conventions that Chile has ratified but does not respect
“Many of the colleagues have no knowledge of salary settlements and of the labor world in general,” Vergara tells us with concern, who sees the education of his colleagues as a central issue in their union work.
“Our demands have to do with the low value of salaries, ambiguity in some contracts, abusive working hours, harassment at work and high turnover of workers, but we have also made the respective complaints for violation of the sanitary code, as the bathrooms are not sanitized and emergency exits have been found blocked by boxes of merchandise, among other threats to job security, “he adds.
Monthly the union welcomes six complaints of labor harassment.
Zara for its part has changed the internal regulations several times without consulting the workers.
These changes have made, for example, that sellers now have to perform work in the warehouse, for the loading and unloading of merchandise from the trucks at dawn, since before there was a special warehouse staff that did so.
For Valentina Doniez, researcher at Fundación Sol, “polyfunctionality is a precarious factor, since companies often use it as a mechanism to intensify work, therefore generating greater pressure for the worker. On the other hand, one of the main problems is that often this polyfunctionality is not well established as the law says, in each function that has to be developed, but it is understood as a bottomless pit in which the worker would be available for anything the employer needs, “he says.
Carmencita Vergara is clear: “Zara on the outside exhibits a profile of very well dressed and educated workers, but inside the conditions of employment are very bad and we will not rest until we improve them”.
Abuses by “EsclaviZara”
Zara, as part of the INDITEX group, has a framework agreement with UNIGlobal, an entity that declares “seeking to change the rules of the game in the global labor market and guarantee justice and parity for workers”. For Vergara, “if that agreement did not exist, the persecution of the union leaders would be greater, as well as the workers and delegates who are constantly dismissed, which is justified by their labor rotation policy.”
The company that seeks to omit the status of worker at all costs, has increased its complacent treatment to the union, since he put in his mural a humorous image of Amancio Ortega with a text that gave an account of how he has made his fortune based to labor exploitation.
“Since we made use of our freedom of expression, relations with management were cut off.Our supposed interlocutor is Paula Vásquez, in charge of human resources; the general manager is Kurt Burgermesiter whom they brought to the post from Turkey, and who tries to convince the comrades that we are collaborators of the company, thus disregarding our quality of workers “, explains Vergara.
The union of Zara Chile has declared that “it will not endure threats or violations, neither against the union leaders nor against the workers”.
And he has asserted his word by stating several complaints, but while the Florida Labor Inspectorate does pay the fines, that of the Oriente sector of Santiago does not do so.
“If the company is given several days to present the background to us, they give us three hours,” says Vergara.
Zara, in a double standard, says to have a good relationship with union leaders, however, knowing that in Chile it is established by law that working on two-thirds of the day the minimum wage must be paid, it does not.