labels: textiles, economy - general
Gap says child labour allegation at an India facility is the exception, not the rule news
29 October 2007

Gap Inc said on Sunday 28 October that it had investigated an allegation about child labour being used at a factory in India that was working on a product for GapKids. The company said its probe revealed that a very small portion of a particular order placed with one of its vendors was given to an unauthorised subcontractor without its knowledge, which violated its agreement with the vendor.

The company said it stopped the work order as soon as it was alerted, and prevented product from being sold in stores. It said it strictly prohibits the use of child labour. The high street clothing chain said it had called an emergency meeting with suppliers over the allegation.

Gap barred thousands of clothes in transit to its shops after charges that children in India as young as 10 years old were making them. An article in The Observer had said the children were beaten and made to hand-sew clothes over 16-hour shifts, often for no wages.

It said many children were “bought” from their parents, and worked only for food and board. They were not allowed to leave until they had repaid the purchase fee in work. The paper quoted one child talking of being beaten with a rubber pipe, and another saying oily rags were stuffed in their mouths if they cried.

The company said that only an embroidered girl''s smock blouse for GapKids was made using child labour at a sweatshop in Delhi. The children hand-stitching the beads were not paid. The garment would have sold for about £20 (Rs1,600 or approxiamtely $40).

Gap senior vice-president of social responsibility Dan Henkle said: “We have already made sure the products will never be sold. Although violations of our strict prohibition on child labour are extremely rare, we are calling for an urgent meeting with all suppliers in the region to reinforce this policy.”

Gap has made a concerted effort to improve its image as an ethical company. The fashion chain launched its first major social audit in 2004. This revealed abuses by 136 suppliers, including child labour, physical punishment and forced labour. All of these contracts were severed. In the past year, a further 23 suppliers have had contracts terminated for abuses.

Gap''s suppliers have to comply with a stringent policy where all workers must be over 14, or above the legal working age. Outsourcing work to Asia, where wages are cheaper and it is easier to get around labour laws, is more profitable for western fashion chains.

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Gap says child labour allegation at an India facility is the exception, not the rule