Argentinian children's apparel giant Cheeky has announced it will end ties with any third-party supplier who fails to meet the country's labour code.

The move comes after Buenos Aires' public defender demanded the state investigate the company for alleged labour and immigration crimes and for promoting sweatshop conditions in "clandestine" factories in the capital.

Officials at Cheeky, Argentina's second-largest maker of children's wear, would not comment.

However, in a vague statement to just-style, the firm said: "The company uses several independent suppliers that complement the production chain. Even though any irregularity [in their business practice] is independent of us, we are committed to immediately end any commercial relationship with any supplier who doesn't respect the country's laws."

Industry officials confirmed Cheeky is facing the accusations.

Local reports said the firm subjected illegal workers - including pregnant women and children - to gruelling 20-hour shifts in inadequate health and safety conditions.

Workers were paid just a few cents a day, EuropaPress newswire reported, quoting public defender Alicia Piernini. Piernini said Cheeky's management was aware of the infractions.

The public defender could not be reached for comment.

Despite the accusations, labour conditions are improving in Argentina, a spokeswoman for textiles lobby Camara Industrial Argentina de la Indumentaria, said.

Last year's scandal involving the exploitation of Bolivian migrants has spurred the government to step up inspections and launch a labour-abuse telephone hotline.

By Ivan Castano.