12 August 2010 | Angeline Albert
UK clothing retailers Gap, Next and Marks & Spencer (M&S) have hit back at criticism levelled at them in the Guardian newspaper concerning conditions at some of their supplier factories in India.
The companies said rigorous auditing has helped them identify and tackle supplier compliance violations – namely excessive and unpaid overtime –in three clothing factories in Gurgaon.
All three are working with suppliers to prevent non-compliance and avoid job losses. They said, however, that they would withdraw business and stop orders if matters are not resolved.
Gap said its team uncovered issues at two of its contracted House of Pearl facilities in late June and mid-July. It said it acted swiftly and the vendor agreed to pay outstanding overtime wages at the legal rate; to reduce working hours to legal limits; and ease overburdened capacity by subcontracting extra work to an approved vendor in the region.
Next also said one of its investigators discovered “very serious” compliance breaches at a House of Pearl factory in Gurgaon. In a statement, the company said: “The fact that Next people were already on the ground, actively investigating this supplier and are working locally to put matters right is an example of supplier review systems working effectively.
“Of course we are naturally aware that any auditing procedure has its limitations, which is precisely why we had taken the extra steps to meet workers in their own homes.”
In April this year, M&S discovered workers at a Viva Global clothing factory, also in Gurgaon, were experiencing poor working conditions. M&S said: “The factory has fallen short of the high standards we expect and, as a result, we have been working very closely with them since April. We are confident issues on overtime have been solved and the outstanding issues on working conditions are being addressed.”
House of Pearl and Viva Global were unavailable for comment.