21 November, 2002, 07:03 GMT
Gap hit by 'sweatshop'
Gap is being targeted
by activists who are telling Christmas shoppers that the struggling
multi-national clothes retailer is encouraging the exploitation of workers.
Gap workers from Indonesia, Lesotho and
El Salvador were presented at a press conference in Manhattan to describe
how they were paid very little to work long hours making Gap clothes
in factories full of health hazards and brutal working conditions.
The Union of Needletrades, Industrial
and Textile Employees, the Africa Forum and a college group also said
they had documented "abusive working conditions" in 40 factories making
Gap clothes in Cambodia, Indonesia and Bangladesh, as well as in Lesotho
and in El Salvador and Mexico.
"We want Gap to stop exploiting sweatshop
labour around the world," said union official Steve Weingarten.
"We want them to pay a wage that allows
a decent standard of living and allow workers to organise unions to
improve conditions in their factories."
Gap insisted that it would work to prevent
abuse taking place in its contracting factories around the world.
"Overall we share these concerns, and
we work with factories to make sure that standards are maintained,"
said Gap spokeswoman Stacy MacLean.
"To the extent that we can influence
that, we do."
Gap sold almost $14bn (£8.8bn) worth
of clothes last year in its 4,300 stores worldwide.
The anti-Gap protesters may face an uphill
"Today's global consumers want to protect
their favourite brands and will preserve their allegiances to the
extent of turning a blind eye to political and ethical malpractices,"
according to consultants Research International.
The researchers' conclusion was drawn
after a poll of 1,500 "young urban consumers" in 41 countries.
"Consumers have become so good at creating
personal, idealised images of their favourite brands that negative
issues are largely put aside or forgotten," agreed Malcolm Baker,
global director of Research International Qualitatif.