Gap backs El Salvador factory fight

Fashion retailer Gap has set aside differences with the anti-sweatshop movement and agreed to help displaced Salvadorean factory workers.

Together with textile workers union Unite, one of Gap's longest-standing critics, the retailer will support an effort by garment workers in El Salvador to open the country's first independent, unionised clothing factory. It has committed to placing an order with the plant.

The initiative is a turnaround for the retailer, which has been lambasted by anti-sweatshop activists for allegedly ignoring the plight of workers in foreign countries who earned substandard wages.

In 2002, Unite launched a campaign to raise awareness about conditions in factories producing clothing for Gap and other US retailers. It featured the factory in El Salvador, which closed following industrial action.

Unite blamed the previous owner for shutting the factory to avoid unionisation.

Following talks with Unite, Gap is supporting the re-opening of the factory - called Just Garments.

'Companies, unions and non-governmental organisations have to learn how to work together to address problems in garment factories,' said Gap chief administrative and compliance officer Anne Gust.

Unite president Bruce Raynor said: 'We've had our differences with Gap. However, we realised we could work together and create a positive change for workers in El Salvador and elsewhere.'