Case on Child Labour Gap Admits Possible Child Labor Problem Journalist Videotapes Conditions at Subcontractor Plant; Gap Official Tells ABC News, ‘This Is Completely Unacceptable’ By HILARY BROWN, LONDON, Oct. 28, 2007 The multi-billion dollar global fashion company Gap has admitted that it may have unknowingly used child labor in the production of a line of children’s clothing in India. This followed allegations by an investigative reporter based in Delhi, whose story was splashed across two pages of the British paper The Observer on Sunday.
ABC News obtained some of the video material he used to substantiate his story.
It shows children who appeared to be between the ages of 10 and 13, stitching embroidered shirts in a crowded, dimly lit work-room. The video clearly shows a Gap label on the back of each garment. The reporter, Dan McDougall, said the children were working without pay as virtual slaves in filthy conditions, with a single, backed-up latrine and bowls of rice covered with flies.
They slept on the roof, he said. Gap Inc. was quick to order a full investigation into the allegations and to re-iterate its policy never to use child labor in the production of its clothes. This is completely unacceptable and we do not ever, ever condone any child laborer making our garments,” said the president of Gap North America, Martha Hansen, on ABC News’ “Good Morning America Weekend Edition” on Sunday morning. “We act swiftly,” Hansen went on. “And quite honestly, I’m very grateful that this was brought to our attention.
“McDougall said the children seen working on the Gap clothing all came from the poor Indian state of Bihar, a favourite hunting ground for traffickers looking for cheap underage labor.
Impoverished parents are tricked into selling their children for a few dollars with the empty promise that they will be well cared for and will send back their wages. “They had been trafficked by train,” he said. “Its nickname is ‘the child labor express. ‘ At any time, you can see 80 children on this huge train. Most are trafficked to work in the garment industry, which is huge in New Delhi. ” Like many international companies, Gap Inc farms out huge production orders to subcontractors in the developing world, where child labor is virtually endemic.
The company takes pride in its record of ethical out-sourcing and has almost 100 inspectors monitoring 2,700 factories worldwide, it says. But in India one of its suppliers evidently broke the rules. Child sweatshop shame threatens Gap’s ethical image Dan McDougall ,The Observer, Sunday 28 October 2007 An Observer investigation into children making clothes has shocked the retail giant and may cause it to withdraw apparel ordered for Christmas Amitosh concentrates as he pulls the loops of thread through tiny plastic beads and sequins on the toddler’s blouse he is making.
Dripping with sweat, his hair is thinly coated in dust. In Hindi his name means ‘happiness’. The hand-embroidered garment on which his tiny needle is working bears the distinctive logo of international fashion chain Gap. Amitosh is 10. The hardships that blight his young life, exposed by an undercover Observer investigation in the back streets of New Delhi, reveal a tragic consequence of the West’s demand for cheap clothing. It exposes how, despite Gap’s rigorous social audit systems launched in 2004 to weed out child labour in its production processes, the system is being abused by unscrupulous subcontractors.
The result is that children, in this case working in conditions close to slavery, appear to still be making some of its clothes. Gap’s own policy is that if it discovers children being used by contractors to make its clothes that contractor must remove the child from the workplace, provide it with access to schooling and a wage, and guarantee the opportunity of work on reaching a legal working age. It is a policy to stop the abuse of children. And in Amitosh’s case it appears not to have succeeded.
Sold into bonded labour by his family this summer, Amitosh works 16 hours a day hand-sewing clothing. Beside him on a wooden stool are his only belongings: a tattered comic, a penknife, a plastic comb and a torn blanket with an elephant motif. ‘I was bought from my parents’ village in [the northern state of] Bihar and taken to New Delhi by train,’ he says. ‘The men came looking for us in July. They had loudspeakers in the back of a car and told my parents that, if they sent me to work in the city, they won’t have to work in the farms.
My father was paid a fee for me and I was brought down with 40 other children. The journey took 30 hours and we weren’t fed. I’ve been told I have to work off the fee the owner paid for me so I can go home, but I am working for free. I am a shaagird [a pupil]. The supervisor has told me because I am learning I don’t get paid. It has been like this for four months. ‘ The derelict industrial unit in which Amitosh and half a dozen other children are working is smeared in filth, the corridors flowing with excrement from a flooded toilet.
Behind the youngsters huge piles of garments labelled Gap – complete with serial numbers for a new line that Gap concedes it has ordered for sale later in the year – lie completed in polythene sacks, with official packaging labels, all for export to Europe and the United States in time for Christmas. Jivaj, who is from West Bengal and looks around 12, told The Observer that some of the boys in the sweatshop had been badly beaten. ‘Our hours are hard and violence is used against us if we don’t work hard enough. This is a big order for abroad, they keep telling s that. ‘Last week, we spent four days working from dawn until about one o’clock in the morning the following day. I was so tired I felt sick,’ he whispers, tears streaming down his face. ‘If any of us cried we were hit with a rubber pipe. Some of the boys had oily cloths stuffed in our mouths as punishment. ‘ Manik, who is also working for free, claims – unconvincingly – to be 13. ‘I want to work here. I have somewhere to sleep,’ he says looking furtively behind him. ‘The boss tells me I am learning. It is my duty to stay here. I’m learning to be a man and work.
Eventually, I will make money and buy a house for my mother. ‘ The discovery of the sweatshop has the potential to cause major embarrassment for Gap. Last week, a spokesman admitted that children appeared to have been caught up in the production process and rather than risk selling garments made by children it vowed it would withdraw tens of thousands of items identified by The Observer. He said: ‘At Gap, we firmly believe that under no circumstances is it acceptable for children to produce or work on garments. These allegations are deeply upsetting and we take this situation very seriously.
All of our suppliers and their sub-contractors are required to guarantee that they will not use child labour to produce garments. ‘It is clear that one of our vendors violated this agreement, and a full investigation is under way. After learning of this situation, we immediately took steps to stop this work order and to prevent the product from ever being sold in our stores. We are also convening a meeting of our suppliers where we will reinforce our prohibition on child labour. ‘Gap Incorporated has a rigorous factory-monitoring programme in place and last year we revoked our approval of 23 factories for failing to comply with our standards. We are proud of this programme and we will continue to work with government, trade unions and other independent organisations to put an end to the use of child labour. ‘ In recent years Gap has made efforts to rebrand itself as a leader in ethical and socially responsible manufacturing, after previously being criticised for practices including the use of child labour. With annual revenues of more than ? 8bn and endorsements from Madonna and Sex and The City star Sarah Jessica Parker, Gap has arguably become the most successful brand in high-street fashion. The latest face of the firm’s advertising is the singer Joss Stone.
Founded in San Francisco in 1969 by Donald Fisher, now one of America’s wealthiest businessmen, Gap operates more than 3,000 stores and franchises across the world. In Britain Gap, babyGap and GapKids are very successful, their own-brand jeans alone outselling their retail rivals’ lines by three to one. Last year, the company embarked on a huge advertising campaign surrounding ‘Product Red’, a charitable trust for Africa founded by the U2 singer Bono and backed by celebrities including Hollywood star Don Cheadle, singers Lenny Kravitz and Mary J Blige, Steven Spielberg and Penelope Cruz.
As part of the fundraising endeavour, Gap launched a new, limited collection of clothing and accessories for men and women with Product Red branding, the profits from which are being channelled towards fighting Aids in the Third World. On its website the company states that all individuals who work in garment factories deserve to be treated with dignity and are entitled to safe and fair working conditions and not since 2000, when a BBC Panorama investigation exposed the firm’s working practices in Cambodia, have children been associated with the production of their brand.
Gap has huge contracts in India, which boasts one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. But over the past decade, India has also become the world capital for child labour. According to the UN, child labour contributes an estimated 20 per cent of India’s gross national product with 55 million children aged from five to 14 employed across the business and domestic sectors. ‘Gap may be one of the best-known fashion brands with a public commitment to social responsibility, but the employment [by subcontractors ultimately supplying ajor international retail chains] of bonded child slaves as young as 10 in India’s illegal sweatshops tells a different story,’ says Bhuwan Ribhu, a Delhi lawyer and activist for the Global March Against Child Labour. ‘The reality is that most major retail firms are in the same game, cutting costs and not considering the consequences. They should know by now what outsourcing to India means. ‘It is an impossible task to track down all of these terrible sweatshops, particularly in the garment industry when you need little more than a basement or an attic crammed with small children to make a healthy profit. Some owners even hide the children in sacks and in carefully concealed mezzanine floors designed to dodge such raids,’ he explains. ‘Employing cheap labour without proper auditing and investigation of your contractor inevitably means children will be used somewhere along the chain. This may not be what they want to hear as they pull off fresh clothes from clean racks in stores but shoppers in the West should be thinking “Why am I only paying ? 30 for a hand-embroidered top. Who made it for such little cost? Is this top stained with a child’s sweat? ” That’s what they need to ask themselves. Seeking to combat its image as a sweatshop operation, the company detailed the findings in its first social responsibility report. The full 42-page document is available on the website, gapinc. com · The investigation was carried out in partnership with WDR Germany. Gap admits to child labour violations in outsource factories David Teather in New York , The Guardian, Thursday 13 May 2004 03. 06 BST The Gap yesterday admitted to widespread problems – from unsafe machinery to child labour violations – in the thousands of factories it uses around the world to produce clothing for its retail chains.
The Gap said it has a team of more than 90 compliance officers who conducted about 8,500 factory visits last year. The company produces garments in 3,000 factories located in 50 countries. The Gap said it cancelled supply deals with 136 plants last year because of various violations. Contracts were terminated with 42 plants in China, another 42 in south-east Asia, 31 on the Indian subcontinent and nine in Europe. In two factories at which contracts were terminated, The Gap identified under-age workers – though in both cases hey were older than 14. The most frequent violations of The Gap’s code of conduct included factories not complying with local laws on annual leave, failure to pay the minimum wage, working weeks in excess of 60 hours, inaccurate record keeping and machinery lacking safety devices. It said outright physical punishment and coercion was “rare” but that monitors had identified verbal harassment by supervisors and the use of physical labour as punishment. “Few factories, if any, are in full compliance all the time,” wrote compliance officer Anne Gust. If they were, we wouldn’t need a code or the resources we devote to monitoring. “When we find problems, we work with management to try to resolve them as quickly as possible. We will stay with a manufacturer as long as we believe it is committed to making ongoing improvements. ” The report was broadly welcomed by lobbyists for better working conditions in the developing world. Nikki Bas, of California-based Sweatshop Watch, said it was “the kind of information we have been pushing them to provide for years”. ___________________________________________________________ ____________ Gap pulls ‘child labour’ clothing Fashion chain Gap has withdrawn from sale children’s clothing allegedly made using forced child labour in India. A 10-year-old boy was filmed making clothes for Gap shops in the US and Europe as part of an investigation by the UK’s Observer newspaper. The boy told the Observer he had been sold to a factory owner by his family. Gap, which has made commitments not to use child labour, said that only one item – a girl’s smock blouse – was involved.
The boy said he had been working for four months without pay and would not be allowed to leave the job until the fee his family had received was repaid. Another boy of 12 said children were beaten if bosses thought they were not working hard enough, the paper reported. Dan Henkle, a spokesman for Gap, said: “We were made aware earlier this week that a reporter had found an incident of children working in a factory that was producing for one of our brands, and this is completely unacceptable to us. We have a strict prohibition on child labour, and we are taking this very seriously. This is very upsetting and we intend to investigate thoroughly. ” Emergency meeting The spokesman said Gap monitors factories which make its clothing and in 2006 revoked approval for 23 factories which it said failed to comply with its standards. Mr Henkle also said the company was calling an emergency meeting with its suppliers in the region. The smock blouse will not be offered for sale in the company’s 3,000 stores around the world, Gap said, and instead will be destroyed.
Western clothing chains increasingly get their products made in Asia, taking advantage of cheaper labour. A 2006 report by the Child Welfare Committee found that 12 of 22 children from a village in the impoverished eastern state of Bihar were re-trafficked, mostly to different states, within a year after being rescued from a Delhi hand-embroidery sweatshop. “They go back to the parents, but then what? ” asked Bharti Sharma, chairwoman of the Child Welfare Committee, a quasi-governmental body. Unless there is close supervision, the children will be going back to work. ” Rights groups estimate there are as many as 60 million children working in violation of the Child Labor Act, which prohibits children under 14 from working in 72 jobs, ranging from cutting diamonds and shelling cashews to blowing glass. New occupations are still being added, including domestic work and jobs in restaurants and hotels. There are myriad reasons children get sucked back into the labor cycle, activists say.
Poor parents are ignorant of the law and seduced by promises that their child will master a trade while sending home ever-higher paychecks; illiterate child laborers lack the confidence to start school; government rehabilitation and monitoring programs are only now being implemented; and natural disasters. In fact, the parents of the children rescued in the Gap case told their attorney that severe floods destroyed their crops in their West Bengal villages, leaving them with no choice but to send their children to work in the capital. Many Indians believe children and their families would be worse off without such jobs.
Seeing a child serve tea in restaurants, tea stalls, hotels and corporate offices “should be shocking,” said Shireen Miller of Save the Children India. “But there’s a kind of cultural tolerance toward it; there isn’t outrage. ” Miller’s point was brought home early this month when two 10-year-old boys were seen on videotape plowing in Bihar state on fields owned by the minister for rural development. The high-profile rescue at the sweatshop making Gap clothes in October was followed by rescues of 103 boys from two other textile factories in New Delhi. The sweeps have jolted the Indian government and Gap.
Government officials have since drawn up a child-labor eradication plan, promising regular audits in such labor-intensive export industries as textiles, carpets and jewelry. They have also pledged a large funding increase from $170 million to $1 billion for rehabilitation centers that offer informal education and vocational training to rescued minors. On its Web site, the Ministry of Labor acknowledges the challenge, calling child labor a “socioeconomic problem inextricably linked to poverty and illiteracy” that “requires concerted efforts from all sectors of the society to make a dent. A Gap spokesman says a New Delhi subcontractor sent the work to an illegal, makeshift facility without Gap’s knowledge. Gap ordered the vendor, who they declined to name, to fire the subcontractor who had employed the children in violation of the company’s policies. Gap has also placed the vendor on probation, reduced orders to his factory by 50 percent, and is organizing an industry forum called Global March Against Child Labor early next year, according to Bill Chandler, Gap’s vice president of corporate communications. ” Gap Inc. elieves very strongly that under no circumstance should work on any of our garments be done by children,” said Chandler. “We require all of our vendors to comply with our strict code of conduct that includes an absolute ban on child labor. ” Gap says it will donate $200,000 to create community centers in India that will closely monitor the 200 garment factories that manufacture their products to ensure that no child is hired. Some of the boys who hand-stitched sequins onto Gap shirts were as young as 10 and worked up to 16 hours a day, rights activists say. Many had been packed into tiny rooms in a series of factories, working from 9 a. . until midnight with just a 30-minute lunch break, and were beaten with rods if they missed a stitch, activists say. All were reunited with their parents last week after spending six weeks in the custody of the nonprofit organization Save the Childhood Movement, while a New Delhi court reviewed their case. The court had initially refused to allow the parents custody of their children after learning that they had personally delivered them to the factory administrator, said attorney Ashok Agarwal. He said he agreed to represent the parents only after they promised to protect their children from future traffickers.
On a recent afternoon at the Save the Childhood Movement shelter, the boys became reacquainted with their childhoods, climbing trees, playing cricket and watching television. They also practiced yoga, meditation, and attended counseling sessions conducted by former child laborers. “The children have to learn how to be free,” said shelter manager Manish Sharma. When the court finally ordered the boys home, it gave each family $500 to be used to generate income by purchasing items such as livestock, a motorized rickshaw or a cigarette vending cart.
S. K. Das, the principal secretary of the West Bengal Labor Department, said local officials work with families to devise an income plan, which must be approved before payment. But children’s activists say there is little follow-up after most payments. The 2006 Child Welfare Committee report found that “families exhausted all the money in a few days. Children have obviously not benefited at all. ” Activists said families typically use the money to for such items as ceiling fans, alcohol, weddings and unpaid debts.
Bhuwan Ribhu, a lawyer for Save the Childhood Movement, says his group will visit every few months the boys who left the sweatshop manufacturing Gap clothes. But without an effective government rehabilitation system in place, he says it is impossible to insulate them from traffickers who are often residents of the same village. Individual states are responsible for enforcing child labor laws, creating a fragmented and disorganized system in which blame for inaction is traded back and forth between state and federal governments, rights advocates say.
This summer, the Delhi High Court ordered local government to stop traffickers from bringing out-of-state children to the capital after the northern state of Jharkhand argued that New Delhi has done little to stop it. The Delhi Labor Department is woefully understaffed, with only 50 inspectors for a workforce of 8 million, said a department official who requested anonymity because he is not permitted to speak on the record. “We are supposed to implement 26 labor laws with merely nine people,” he said. “And the inspectors are not qualified. Their nderstanding of the legal issues is poor. ” Most of the boys swept up in the raid on the sweatshop producing Gap clothes were under age 14 and earned less than $15 per month in a nation whose annual per capita income is $3,600. But when they arrived at the shelter, they recited phrases that their bosses had drilled into them – that they were 14 (the legal working age) and earned decent money, said attorney Ribhu. Mohammed Nadim, 15, who was recently rescued after working two years in a garment sweatshop in New Delhi, smiled uncomfortably when asked why he had left home. I went with the man (trafficker) to earn money,” he said. Reached by phone at his village in Bihar state, his father, Mohammed Tohid, contradicted his son, saying he found his own way to the factory. “I know he is too young to work,” he said. “I know he’s a child. But if he wants to work, he can. ” Kolkata : With 50,000 children working as domestic labourers in Kolkata alone, the ineffectiveness of the amended Child Labour Prevention Act (CLPRA) implemented in the state becomes conspicuous.
At a workshop organised by Save the Children, an NGO working for children’s rights, speakers highlighted various issues detrimental to the implementation of CLPRA in West Bengal and across the country. “West Bengal is one of the largest contributors in child labour and trafficking. There is a greater need to define the responsibilities of the judiciary, police, state government and civil society in implementing the CLPRA. There is a need for public-private partnerships,” said Manabendra Nath Ray, state programme manager, Save the Children.
The workshop focused on the role played by the state Labour Department and the Women and Child Development Department in implementing the CLPRA and stressed on the contribution of education, rehabilitation and awareness to eradicate child labour. “Our study has shown that most of the children exploited as domestic helps are brought to Kolkata or trafficked mainly from adjoining districts of North and South 24 Parganas and East Midnapore,” said Thomas Chandy, CEO, Save the Children (Bal Raksha, Bharat).
The NGO claims that though census 2001 estimates over 12 million children aged between 5 and 14 continue to work in hazardous industries, the actual number of child labours is much higher, as nearly 20 million children are working in roadside eateries or are employed as domestic workers in the country. Experts also stressed on the need to cover the loopholes of the CLPRA which says that children under the age of 14 are banned from working as domestic helps, in dhabas, restaurants, hotels and other hospitality sectors.
According to a study conducted by Save the Children, 74 per cent of the child domestic labourers are aged between 12 and 16, leaving a crucial gap in bringing a huge number of children aged between 17 and 18 under the Act. ‘Inspectors, who are responsible for implementing the CLPRA, face a lot of restrictions. We would like the civil society and NGOs to help us by providing information about the cases where children are being exploited,” said S Islam, Assistant Labour Commissioner. Questions for discussion: a. What are the primary and secondary causes of child labour in India.
What are the challenges faced by governments, NGO’s, domestic & international businesses when they try to eradicate child labour? b. Are you satisfied with the actions taken by Gap? What would you do in similar situation that can lead to a sustainable solution to this problem? c. What are the inadequacies of the various Regulatory Departments? Discuss a few actionable and practical suggestions to make them more efficient? d. Elaborate on the role played by the NGO’s in such a scenario as above? Would a multi stakeholder approach work better – give pros and cons of such an arrangement.