Following international protests against the savage working conditions of garment workers in the export sector in India, Britain's best-known high street stores -- Gap, Next and Marks and Spencer -- have been forced to inquire into abuse of working regulations at their Indian suppliers, which have resulted in children as young as six being left alone while their parents work in outlets in Delhi and in the satellite township of Gurgaon on its outskirts.
According to a London Observer investigation, factories were using workers hired through middlemen, and paying them less than Rs 150 for an 8 hour day)
All three firms have reportedly pledged to end the practice of excessive overtime, which is in flagrant breach of the industry's ethical trading initiative (ETI) and Indian labour law. Some workers say they were paid at half the legal overtime rate.
Gap, which uses the same factory as Next, confirmed it had found wage violations and gave its supplier a deadline of midnight of August 8, 2010 to repay workers who lost out.
Workers claimed that those who refused to work the extra hours have been told to find new jobs, a practice defined under international law as forced labour and outlawed around the world.
The factory has pledged to apologise and reinstate anyone who lost their job.
Gap admitted wage and overtime violations and ordered its supplier to reduce working hours to within the legal limits and to refund workers who have been illegally underpaid.
Next said it had found the situation to be "deplorable" and added the chairman of the Indian company it uses has apologised and promised to make amends.