Since sanctions were lifted against Burma in 2012, many companies from overseas have built factories in the country to avail themselves of lower labor costs. The Gap was one of the first retailers to build a clothing factory when sanctions were lifted, and featured its “made in Myanmar” jackets to Old Navy and Banana Republic. However, this success comes at a price, particularly if there are significant health and safety issues with the factory and if there are reported abuses.
An audit revealed that The Gap had several “compliance issues” with two of its factories Burma. Workers were frequently verbally abused by management, many were working over 60 hours a week, were not given a day off every 7 days, and many believed that they were not entitled to payment for overtime work. In addition, there were electrical hazards, poor ventilation and dangerous chemicals in places where workers were not encouraged to wear safety gear.
While child labor was an issue in Burma prior to the sanctions, there didn’t appear to be children working in the factories, although there were few requirements in place for checking a worker’s age.
Since the initial audit in November 2013, The Gap management said that one of the factories has improved the extent that it is now compliant with The Gap’s code of conduct, and the second had “made considerable progress in improving working conditions and factory safety, though a limited number of key issues remain.”