Naked Protest against The Gap

AT the end of June, outside the Manchester City centre Gap store, several activists from Labour Behind the Label donned flesh-coloured body stockings complete with woollen "nakednesses" in order to bring attention to Gap's failings in regard to workers in its subcontracted factories.

The Gap Inc. is an industry leader in the rag trade on a par with Nike, and is the owner of three labels: Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy. It is worried about losing this position. Past exposes have forced the company to draw up a relatively strong Code of Conduct which details the kind of fair labour practices that subcontractors should follow. It employs an 80 strong team of internal monitoring staff who are supposed to ensure its code is adhered to in supplier factories.

But what does this mean for workers? A code is a worthless piece of paper if workers on the shop floor continue to experience conditions such as enforced overtime, no sick pay, denial of the right to form unions, wages below a living wage, sexual and physical abuse, excessively high production targets and unsafe working practices. This is the reality gap between the company's professed ethical stance and the code violations being reported worldwide.

In the Philippines, a supplier factory is to be closed despite record profits: management claim losses, workers claim that the management want to break unionisation of the workers. In Saipan, after paying outrageous recruitment fees, young women from the Philippines, Bangladesh, China and Thailand have been forced to work 12 hours per day, seven days per week with no overtime with overcrowded and unsanitary housing facilities. In Lesotho, workers complained of basic pay below a living wage, unfair deductions, verbal and physical abuse, excessive working hours and enforced overtime.

With a list like this, and many more instances like these detailed, Labour Behind the Label call on the Gap to: accept credible independent monitoring of all its factories worldwide, not just one or two in Central America (and those only after intense international pressure); ban recruitment fees for Saipan workers; ensure workers are paid a living wage and pay suppliers prices high enough to enable them to do likewise; and to disclose factory locations.

The people of Manchester were suitably bemused and very supportive of the actions of Labour behind the Labour, and hundreds of leaflets were distributed.

Jessica Mock, Labour Behind the Label (0161 247 1760, women-ww@mcr1.poptel.org.uk)


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