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fashionMarch 3, 2021

Spanish unions cry foul as Inditex shuts stores -

MADRID: Inditex staff in Spain say they are being forced out as the owner of fast-fashion brand Zara rolls out its plan to shut up to 1,200 stores worldwide, despite a company agreement with Spanish unions to project jobs.
The world’s biggest clothes retailer is closing smaller outlets while expanding flagship stores and the Spanish closures are the first of up to 700 expected this year in Europe, as well as 100 in the Americas and 400 elsewhere in the world.
Under a December agreement, seen by Reuters, with two Spanish unions, Inditex aims to provide all affected staff with new vacancies matching their old contracts and seniority within 25 km (16 miles) of where they used to work.
But unions and staff say it’s not going to plan.
In an internal report the UGT union analysed vacancies offered by Inditex and found 40 per cent of the new positions were outside the province where the worker in question had worked, in some cases on the other side of the country.
The report said one in four workers offered new positions in Spain so far had quit.
“If workers who used to work 40 hours are offered 12-hour jobs, hours away, that’s not preserving employment’’, said Cristina Estevez, UGT’s retail representative. UGT, the second-biggest Spanish union within Inditex, signed the deal with the company along with the leading syndicate CCOO.
An Inditex spokesman said that it was complying with the union agreement and that relocations respected, “all its principles, wording and spirit, which is to prioritise the maintenance of jobs”.
The company was offering more than one vacancy for every job lost, the spokesman said, pointing out that 75 per cent of workers had been successfully relocated so far.
Clothing sales at Inditex and rivals such as H&M and Next recovered towards the end of last year from record lows when the Covid-19 pandemic first struck, boosted by online shopping and a quick rebound in China.
But the retail industry’s recovery in the western world has been frustrated by lockdowns extending well into 2021 and slow vaccine rollouts in some countries.
While most retail jobs lost in the first quarter of 2020 in the United States and Europe have been reinstated, the number of people employed in the sector remains well below pre-pandemic levels, according to data from Eikon Datastream and Eurostat.
In the United States, the shortfall is about 400,000 jobs while in Europe it’s nearly 350,000, the data showed.