Workers Face Sexual Abuse & Violence, H&M & GAP To ‘Investigate’
Fashion giants H&M and Gap Inc vowed on Tuesday to investigate reports that Asian garment workers who supply their high-street stores routinely face sex abuse, harassment and violence.
The coalition has investigated the factories for several years as efforts mount to push Western brands into improving safety along their supply chains and render them slave-free.
Clothes stitched by low-paid Asian workers – part of a complex global supply chain – end up on high-priced Western high streets, with some 4,750 H&M stores located in 69 countries and about 3,700 Gap shops operating in about 90 nations.
Sweden's H&M – the world's No. 2 clothes group after Zara owner Inditex (ITX.MC) – said it would review the findings of the recent report by the civil society groups and unions.
US retailer Gap said it was "deeply concerned about the troubling allegations raised by this report".
"Our global team is currently conducting our due diligence to investigate and address these issues," a spokeswoman said.
Walmart Too, A Part Of It?
A separate report published last month by the coalition of rights groups found similar abuse of women at supplier factories in Asia for US-based Walmart, the world's largest retailer.
Walmart said last month that it was reviewing the "concerning" accounts cited in the report.
The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), a group of trade unions, firms and charities of which both Gap and H&M are members, said it expected the retailers to work with the suppliers to ensure that women have swift access to remedy.
"These allegations are deeply concerning," said Debbie Coulter of the ETI.
Campaigners told the Thomson Reuters Foundation last month that the level of pressure and harassment faced by the workers in the three separate reports was approaching forced labour.
"Any time you have retaliation against workers, and coercion and control ... you are coming close to the line of forced labour," Jennifer Rosenbaum of Global Labor Justice (GLJ), a network of worker and migrant organisations, said last month.
The reports have been published amid meetings hosted by the United Nations' International Labour Organization (ILO) to work on the first global convention against workplace harassment after the #MeToo campaign thrust the issue into the spotlight.
(Published in an arrangement with Reuters.)