International fashion label Zara has been accused of exploiting and not paying its factory workers in Turkey.
In July of 2016, the Bravo manufacturing company in Istanbul shut down overnight, leading to the immediate termination of 140 employees. Zara apparel made up 75 percent of the factories output.
The former factory workers have been demanding three months of unpaid back-pay as well as severance for their termination. According to reports, Zara was given one year to negotiate a solution with the workers but failed to do so.
Now, the former workers have begun placing handwritten notes in the pockets of Zara clothing at stores throughout Istanbul, hoping to raise awareness about their plight.
“I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it," the notes say.
Zara's parent company Inditex officially responded to the accusations, saying it is still working on a solution. It said it is working to establish a "hardship fund" with other brands, namely Mango and Next, which were also affected by the factories abrupt closure.
"This hardship fund would cover unpaid wages, notice indemnity, unused vacation and severance payments of workers that were employed at the time of the sudden shutdown of their factory in July 2016. We are committed to finding a swift solution for all of those impacted," the company said in a statement, according to Teen Vogue.
However, it remains unclear why more than a year has passed and the situation has yet to be resolved, undoubtedly bringing financial detriment to the former employees.
The controversy comes just a year after it was revealed that Zara's factories in Turkey were exploiting Syrian refugees. Hiring the Syrian workers illegally, factories were paying them well below the legally mandated minimum wage, according to BBC.
Syrian workers also said they were treated as disposable assets in the factory.
"If anything happens to a Syrian, they will throw him away like a piece of cloth," a refugee worker said.
Large retail fashion brands, such as Zara, routinely work with third-party factories to manufacture their products. This is often used as an excuse to distance the retailer from worker and human rights abuses.
But as Danielle McMullan, from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, told BBC: "They have a responsibility to monitor and to understand where their clothes are being made and what conditions they are being made in."