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Italian fashion house Gucci said on December 22 it would strengthen controls on its suppliers after an Italian television program showed Chinese employees working more than three times their official hours to assemble its handbags.
The head of a Gucci subcontractor told an investigative program broadcast by RAI state television in Italy on December 21 that Gucci was aware it irregularly employed Chinese workers.
Aroldo Guidotti of subcontractor Mondo Libero (Free World) said the employees toiled away for as long as 14 hours a day, while they were supposed to work only for four hours, to assemble handbags that he sold to Gucci for €24. The bags sell in shops for around US$1,000.
In a statement responding to the "Report" TV show, Gucci said it had acted properly but pledged to raise the number of inspections at its suppliers and take more effective action where needed.
Working conditions in plants producing garments and accessories have become an increasingly global issue as activists and trade unionists campaign against long hours and low wages in developing countries or among immigrants in industrialised states.
The Tuscan fashion house, part of French luxury group Kering, said it had carried out numerous inspections at Mondo Libero, which is based near Florence. The supplier had proved that it had addressed and mostly solved irregularities in working conditions.
"Hidden and inappropriately used cameras, shooting carefully selected supplier companies (3 out of a total 576), do not provide for a true or accurate representation of Gucci and its supply chain policies and procedures," the statement said.
Gucci said "Report" wrongly compared the final price of a bag with the cost of assembling it, leaving out the cost of raw materials or the cutting, packaging and shipping expenses involved.