Gap: Illegal sweatshops 'rare'

Gap Inc. officials said today the clothing retailer continues to investigate one of the company's long-time Indian vendors that illegally subcontracted services to a New Delhi sweatshop found to be employing children.

The British newspaper TheObserver on Sunday reported children as young as 10 had been found making children's clothes in filthy conditions without pay.

The company quickly responded Sunday, saying “a very small portion” of an order for its GapKids line of children's clothing had indeed been illegally subcontracted out by one of its vendors.

“As soon as we were alerted to this situation, we stopped the work order and prevented the product from being sold in stores,” Gap North America President Marka Hansen said in a written statement.

Hansen went on to say that violations of the company's child labor prohibition are “extremely rare” and that company officials will meet this week with its Indian suppliers to reinforce their policies.

Today, the company released a statement saying the illegally employed children are being cared for by local government agencies.

“As our policy requires, the vendor with which our order was originally placed will be required to provide the children with access to schooling and job training, pay them an ongoing wage and guarantee them jobs as soon as they reach the legal working age,” said Gap Inc.'s Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility Dan Henkle.

“Our investigation into this matter continues and we will take immediate and appropriate action with the vendor and their unauthorized sub-contractor,” Henkle said. “We reiterate that under absolutely no circumstances is it acceptable for children to produce or work on products,” he added.

According to Gap Inc. spokeswoman Kris Marubio, the company has employed this particular New Delhi vendor for 15 years. The vendor itself employs 4,000 workers, she said.

“We have inspected their facilities throughout the years and we continued working with them,” Marubio said. She added that she had no information on if or when the vendor would be penalized or terminated.

“We've had a code of vendor conduct for years,” Marubio said. “We have always been against child labor, this is nothing new.”

Gap Inc. terminated business with 23 factories in 2006 for various violations of the company's code of vendor conduct, including those related to worker's hours, wages and child labor, according to Marubio.

Gap Inc. employs vendors in hundreds of countries in North and Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, Mexico, Central and South America, Marubio said.

— Bay City News

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