Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dieing To Work For GAP

They work in almost slave-like conditions, sewing. Last week, more than two dozen were burned alive in an easily preventable sweatshop fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
These poor workers died making clothes for GAP, USA's US largest clothing manufacturer. This is the second time this year that more than 20 workers at a Bangladeshi clothing factory have burned to death.
The factory is owned by the Hameem group, Bangladesh's 5th.largest clothing manufacturer (whose website trumpets it has "an excellent track record in apparels manufacturing for last twenty years (sic)"). It's 10,000 employees produce clothes for a number of US and European clothing retailers, chiefly GAP (which owns brands like GAP, Banana Republic and Old Navy). It is believed the factory was also producing Wrangler jeans.
$24 a month...
GAP said it's “terribly saddened” by the incident and will work with other brands supplied by the factory to "understand what occurred": it carefully avoided any hint of responsibility. GAP claims it makes both announced and surprise visits regularly to assess factory performance against its Code of Vendor Conduct.
But what does GAP do if a supplier is violating its Code? "We continue working with a factory as long as we believe it’s committed to making improvements. If a factory has very serious or repeated violations of our code and lacks the intent or ability to resolve them, we’ll terminate the relationship."
This is not the first time GAP's manufacturing partners have been embroiled in controversy. You may recall in August 2009, GAP's manufacturing operations were uncovered as causing serious environmental damage in Lesotho, Africa. And in June last year, several Hameem factories were set alight in protest at workers' deaths.
It seems well past time for GAP to lift its game. How many workers must die or fall seriously ill, before GAP determines its partners lack "the intent or ability" to make improvements?

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