US: Gap Campaigns Against Child Labor

Gap has begun an effort to rebuild its
reputation after a child-labor scandal in India, announcing a
package of measures on Thursday intended to tighten its commitment
to eradicating the exploitation of children in the manufacture of
its goods.

Embarrassed by reports that some GapKids clothes had been
hand-embroidered by child workers in Delhi, Gap said it would refine
its procedures to ensure that items made in textile workshops in
India were not being produced by children.

It also announced a grant of $200,000 to improve working conditions
and said it would hold an international conference next year to come
up with solutions for issues related to child labor.

The statement from the company came after an internal investigation
by a British newspaper, The Observer, which printed pictures last
month of children making clothes for Gap in a sweatshop. The
newspaper reported that children, some as young as 10, were working
for up to 16 hours a day to embroider clothes, some of them bearing
Gap labels and bar codes.

The company's president, Marka Hansen, said in an open letter to
customers that the children who were found to be embroidering
decorations on blouses for toddlers for Gap would be paid until they
were of working age and then offered employment.

"They'll also get the back wages and education they deserve," she
wrote in the letter, which was posted on the company's Web site.

Bhuwan Ribhu, of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, a Delhi-based
nongovernmental organization dedicated to outlawing child labor,
welcomed the announcement. "They say they believe child labor should
be eliminated," he said. "This is a good start."

His organization is caring for 14 children, all thought to be
younger than 14, who were removed by the police at the end of
October from the shop where the Gap clothes were made. They are
staying at a children's home run by the organization until their
case is investigated and a court issues a release certificate
allowing them to return to their villages in West Bengal.

The statement from Gap said that the vendor that got the Gap order
for the children's clothes had employed a rural community center to
do the embroidery work but that this entity had subcontracted the
work to a Delhi workshop where children were employed. While
auditing in factories is relatively straightforward, checking
conditions in the informal workshops where hand embroidery is done
is harder.

The company said it had suspended 50 percent of orders placed with
the vendor for the next six months and placed it on probation,
demanding that it make "significant improvements to its oversight of
its subcontractors who handle this type of work."

Shireen Miller, head of policy at Save the Children, said Gap had a
responsibility to check working practices along the entire supply
chain, even the fields where cotton is produced for the clothes.

Official figures suggest that about 12 million children are working
in India, but some opponents of child labor estimate the actual
figure could be closer to 60 million.

The Child Labor Prohibition and Regulation Act in India prohibits
the employment of children younger than 14 in hazardous jobs, which
includes work in the embroidery industry.

AMP Section Name:Retail & Mega-Stores
  • 184 Labor

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