Browse all

In Spain, Zara workers are protesting against the closure of stores

The fast fashion giant is expected to shut down 700 European stores within the year

In Spain, Zara workers are protesting against the closure of stores The fast fashion giant is expected to shut down 700 European stores within the year

Inditex, the group that owns Zara, Bershka, Pull&Bear, Stradivarius, Massimo Dutti and other brands, announced last June that it would close over 1,200 stores worldwide in 2021. The group's plan provides for the closure of smaller stores and in areas that are not particularly strategic, favouring large flagship stores in historic centres and very busy areas. In Europe, closures will amount to around 700 stores this year, and one of the first countries where measures have been taking place is Spain, where 114 stores are expected to close, measures that would leave 986 people without a job, not to mention the possible closure of 186 outlets in the upcoming months. According to statements by two of the country's most important unions, UGT and CCOO, the fast-fashion giant is not respecting the agreements.  

According to an agreement signed last December by the two unions together with Inditex, as Reuters reports today, the fast-fashion group had committed to the workers who remained without a store in which to operate to maintain the same contract and level of seniority, relocating them to another store that shouldn't have been more than 25 km from their old place of work. A UGT union report, however, revealed that the new positions offered by Inditex in 40% of cases were located outside the province in which the worker was employed, in some cases in the opposite side of Spain, in others even outside the country. Some workers from Barcelona were offered jobs in Santander, a seven-hour drive away, while a worker from Madrid was offered a job in Melilla, an autonomous Spanish province in North Africa. 

The report says that one in four workers preferred to resign, given the difficulties connected to the new job. "These are disguised layoffs,” CGT secretary for Zara in Madrid, Anibal Maestro, said. “When you propose such moves, you’re forcing the workers to quit.” The unions continue to assert that Inditex is offering redundant workers not only new jobs far from their previous ones, but with altered contracts: far fewer hours, more shifts in the evening and on weekends. Unlike the version reported by Inditex, which according to Reuters, would have successfully relocated 75% of workers, reaffirming the goal of preserving all jobs. 

As nss magazine reported back in October 2020, despite a complicated situation and not rosy forecasts for the future of the sector, the pandemic didn't destroy fast fashion. On the other hand, the health emergency seems to have accentuated some focal points on which the most important brands of the industry will begin to work in the future, the first of which will be the strengthening of e-commerce, to the detriment of physical stores. Inditex, the most important fast-fashion group in the world in terms of revenue - recently overtaken by Uniqlo in terms of capitalization - since 2012 has expanded its network of stores exponentially, starting from 1942 sales point to the current 7199 stores. The group, however, said that between 2020 and 2022 only 450 new stores will be opened, given the growth in online sales.

Negotiations with trade unions are still taking place all over Europe, given the imminent closure of hundreds of stores. An Inditex spokesman said maintaining employment for existing workers was a priority wherever there were closures. But as the recent protests in Spain show, the workers of the group don't feel protected at all.