World-renowned Italian fashion house Gucci is coming under scrutiny over claims that the company is employing people under sweatshop conditions at its stores in China.
According to China’s English-language newspapers, The China Daily and The Global Times, five former workers at Gucci retail stores in Shenzhen released an open letter with allegations that the store operates as a high-end “sweatshop.”
The letter was addressed to Gucci senior executives and the allegations from employees include things such as employees needing to seek permission for drinking water or taking a bathroom break, breaks were limited to five minutes.
The allegations also suggested that employees were forced to work overtime without compensation and had to stand for more than 12 hours a day.
According to the letter, the outlet stores would close at 10 p.m., however, employees would be forced to stay as late as 3 a.m. to conduct inventory checks without receiving compensation for their overtime.
Furthermore, the employees claimed that portions of their salaries would be deducted when items had disappeared at the store, even though Gucci has an insurance policy for stolen items.
One former employee told the Global Times, “Two of my former colleagues had to have abortions because we all had to stand so long each day.”
She added that she faced her own health problems as a result of the working conditions including problems with her stomach and her excretory or urinary system.
Following the allegations, the brand has announced a series of measures that it plans to implement in response to the accusations.
Gucci, which is owned by PPR, said that it “does not and will not endorse or tolerate” abuse or maltreatment of employees.
The company has said that it is investigating the reports and added that they are engaging with external consultants to conduct a comprehensive review that will enable the company to enhance the business and management practices of its stores in China.
The company also replaced the senior management of the store and the assistant store manager from the outlet store that the former employees worked at.
The number of labor disputes in China has risen over the last few years and Chinese companies and factories are increasingly garnering attention for poor labor practices and inhuman conditions.
In fact a China Daily report suggested that in 2010 the number of labor dispute cases brought to the Chinese Supreme People’s Court increased 95 percent from the previous year.
The report suggested that the global financial crisis added to the surge is labor disputes and mistreatment of employees. Nevertheless, disputes over working conditions at stores, especially high-end retailers, have thus far been relatively rare in the country.