Freedom of Association

Freedom of Association

Our COVC explicitly supports freedom of association and the rights of workers to lawfully and peacefully associate, organize and bargain collectively. 

We feel strongly that the people who make our clothes have a right to advocate for their rights and well-being. Many garment workers have limited experience working at facilities or exercising these rights, and they often have few other options for earning a steady income to support themselves and their families. 

These rights can help workers find a common voice and provide them with a framework for engaging with management on fair wages, sufficient benefits and the right to do their work in fair and decent conditions. 

The limited rule of law in many developing countries provides fewer protections for workers’ rights, which is why freedom of association can be such an important enabler in certain countries. 

We understand that workers’ opportunities to voice their concerns often depends on other factors, including good relations with management and the support of other workers or a trusted intermediary. We support the rights of workers and employees to freedom of association and collective bargaining through our Human Rights Policy and Code of Vendor Conduct.

We use a wide range of approaches in seeking to ensure that the rights of freedom of association are respected, from supporting open dialogue between facility workers and managers, to partnering with workers’ rights groups and trade unions when appropriate. 

In January 2018, we joined with The Arbitration Council and ILO Better Factories Cambodia to lead a workshop on freedom of association for our Cambodian suppliers and the unions represented in their facilities. The purpose was to improve employee-employer relationships through a mutual understanding of freedom of association, workplace cooperation, and dispute-prevention and -resolution mechanisms in the workplace. This workshop included in-depth trainings for factory management, union representatives and other worker representatives on how they can better partner to jointly resolve workplace disputes. We look forward to scaling these types of trainings in additional countries in the future. It also provided an overview of Gap Inc.’s Workplace Cooperation Program, which aims to improve worker-management dialogue at facilities. In 2019, we built on these efforts by supporting the Arbitration Council’s development of the “Guidebook to Cambodian Labor Law,” which will be launched in the second half of 2020. 

Also in 2019, we launched a new partnership with the ILO and Better Work Bangladesh. This three-year initiative, the ILO Bangladesh Social Dialogue Project, will be implemented by the ILO in all facilities from which Gap Inc. sources in Bangladesh. It helps to build the capability of factory management, compliance staff, union members and workplace-committee members through training sessions on a range of topics, including freedom of association, collective bargaining, international labor standards, and communication and negotiation techniques. It will also help to increase understanding of the Bangladesh Labour Act. In 2019, we supported training in 28 facilities, an effort we will continue to expand, when feasible, to meet our goal of reaching 50 facilities.