NEW DELHI, INDIA – In advance of next month’s International Labour Organization (ILO) conference in Geneva, an international consortium of human and labour rights organizations has released a groundbreaking new report detailing persistent abuses at Gap supplier factories. The research, collected through interviews with 150 workers in Cambodia, Indonesia and India, finds that despite Gap’s widely-publicized commitments to stemming abuses across its supply chain, significant gaps remain.
“There is a clear and substantial divide between Gap’s public commitments and the actual implementation of protections in supplier factories,” said Anannya Bhattacharjee of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance. “Workers in these facilities need more than empty promises of reform. They need Gap and other manufacturers to honor their promises and to provide transparency and movement around efforts to end rights violations throughout the supply chain. However, the problem is larger than the Gap. Rights violations are fundamentally linked to the structure of the global garment value chain. The ILO must also take action, set global standards across industries and pass a binding Convention to regulate global supply chains.”
“While Gap has publicly committed to several initiatives for improving the lives of employees worldwide and has declared stringent monitoring mechanisms in its factories, there are severe shortcomings in their implementation,” said Ismet Inoni of the Department of Advocacy, Federation of Independent Trade Unions – Indonesia (GSBI). “The company refuses to disclose factory locations, which means any monitoring reports are impossible to verify. Further, these reports fail to include subcontracted facilities or factories that do not produce goods year-round, which are where the majority of abuses occur. Finally, there has not been a monitoring report released since 2012. Even a casual observer can’t help but wonder – what is Gap trying to hide?”
The report documents further labour and workplace abuses in supplier factories for the San Francisco-based company, including revelations that:
• All four Indian factories investigated for this study employed a non-standard workforce, including short-term contract workers, daily wage workers and workers who work on piece-rate. An estimated 60-80% of the garment workforce is employed as contract workers, who lack job security, social security benefits and freedom of association.
• Many workers interviewed did not receive regular overtime payments consistent with national standards. Therefore, while minimum wages were met, due to denial of legal overtime rates, workers routinely reported underpayment of total earned wages. Wages for workers producing Gap garments in these production hubs consistently fell far short of living wages.
• In all four Indian supplier factories investigated for this study, workers reported that they are forced to do overtime, and that they cannot refuse it. Reported penalties for refusing overtime include dismissal from work and physical and verbal abuse.
• Workers who mobilized to demand a living wage met with violent suppression, including deadly use of force.
• One in five garment workers, the vast majority of whom are women, experiences sexual harassment including sexual comments and advances, inappropriate touching and bodily contact initiated by both managers and male co-workers.
“At the International Labour Conference, supply chain workers from across the globe will come together to urge the ILO to move forward with setting a global standard for supply chains that includes protections for wages, freedom of association and migration,” said Sarita Gupta, Executive Director of Jobs with Justice. “These recommendations – which include, for the first time, an outline for an international, cross-border living wage – are essential in improving the lives of billions of workers in Asia, the United States and worldwide. We can only hope that they will listen.”
This report is one in a series, entitled “Workers’ Voice from Global Supply Chains: A Report to the ILO 2016,” which will detail supply chain malpractices and recommendations for the ILO to amend them through binding regulation. The group, which includes the international Asia Floor Wage Alliance, Jobs with Justice (USA), National Guestworker Alliance (USA) and the Society for Labour and Development (India) and the Clean Clothes Campaign (EU), will be at the ILO in Geneva to present their findings.