The Observer reported yesterday that its investigation discovered Indian children as young as 10 years old were being forced to produce blouses for a Gap subcontractor in the Shahpur Jat area of New Delhi.
The goods had been destined for the Christmas market in branches of Gap Kids in Europe and the US, the weekly paper claimed.
“Our team in India is conducting a full investigation and we have already made sure the products will never be sold,” said Dan Henkle, Gap’s senior vice president of social responsibility, in a company statement.
“Even though violations of our strict prohibition on child labour are rare, we are calling a meeting with our suppliers in this region to reinforce this policy.”
In the newspaper report, child workers described long hours of unpaid work, threats and beatings, while producing Gap tops that would have each retailed at £20 (€28.5).
Gap Inc stressed yesterday their suppliers were required to guarantee child labour would not be used to make their garments.
The group said: “The charge involves an order that a vendor appears to have subcontracted out to an unauthorised subcontractor in violation of our agreement.”
In the Observer report, a 10-year-old boy, Amitosh, said he had been working for free in a back-street sweatshop for four months — after his parents were paid a fee for him.
“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,” he was quoted as saying.
“The supervisor has told me because I am learning I don’t get paid.”
Another young boy told the newspaper that they were beaten with a rubber pipe if they were not deemed to be working properly.
In reaction, anti-poverty campaign group War On Want appealed for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to introduce independent regulation of the clothing sector — much of which benefits from cheap production in Asia.
“So long as retailers like Gap are allowed to regulate themselves, rather than have an independent regulator look at their factories and their subcontractors — these scandals will continue.”