A Toronto-based fair trade body has called for an independent investigation into working conditions and labour practices in Gildan Activewear factories in Central America.

The Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN), which in May 2003 released a 57-page report on working conditions within Gildan's overseas operations, claims the Montreal-based T-shirt maker is guilty of setting excessively high production targets, using urine and blood tests to weed out pregnant workers, and harassing and firing workers for organising union activity.

While Gildan has denied the allegations, MSN claims it has new evidence of the company violating Honduran labour laws, with mass firings in response to workers' attempts to form a union.

"Gildan has described the November 2002 firings as an isolated incident involving a small group of workers, however there certainly seems to be a pattern here," MSN coordinator Lynda Yanz said.

"If Gildan wants to win back the trust and respect of its investors and customers, it must deal seriously with repeated demands from the MSN, the Quebec Federation of Labour and many of its institutional buyers to reinstate workers fired for attempting to organise a union."

MSN has called on the company to cooperate with an independent audit team investigation of at least one wholly owned and one contract factory in Central America before the end of 2003.