Retailers Withdraw From Bangladesh Apparel Summit
Their decision to withdraw is said to be in response to the campaign of repression against the labor movement carried out by the Bangladesh government and factory owners.
Seven leading apparel companies — H&M, Gap, Inditex, C&A, Next, VF Corp. and Tchibo — have pulled out as key speakers and participants at the Dhaka Apparel Summit, organized by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, according to Liana Foxvog, director of organizing and communications at the International Labor Rights Forum.
Their decision to withdraw is said to be in response to the campaign of repression against the labor movement carried out by the Bangladesh government and factory owners over the last two months. These companies represent billions of dollars in annual garment purchases for Bangladeshi manufacturers.
The event, being held on Saturday, is the Bangladesh garment industry’s signature annual event. The Ethical Trading Initiative, representing numerous apparel brands, has also withdrawn, as has the only scheduled speaker from a labor union.
The unprecedented decision of apparel brands underscores growing international concern over the deterioration of labor rights in the Bangladesh garment industry, the ILRF, along with the Worker Rights Consortium and the Clean Clothes Campaign said Wednesday.
Following non-violent worker protests demanding higher wages in Ashulia in December, at least 34 union leaders, organizers and workers were arrested and detained, many for more than eight weeks, despite the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing. At least 1,500 workers were dismissed from their jobs.
Recently, the police closed down several trade union offices. While most of the detainees were released on bail, in response to international pressure, they continue to face criminal charges that carry the potential of long jail sentences and must make frequent court appearances, in some cases nine times a month.
The crackdown has been condemned internationally. Human Rights Watch found the circumstances of many of the arrests following the Ashulia strikes point to politically motivated abuse of police powers to retaliate against labor organizers rather than credible allegations of crimes.
“Clearly our global labor campaign, #EveryDayCounts #WagesNotJail, targeting the brands linked to this repression is having an impact,” said Mirjam van Heugten from Clean Clothes Campaign. “With this boycott of BGMEA’s summit, leading brands are sending a clear message to the BGMEA and the Bangladesh authorities — unless all detainees are released, unsubstantiated charges are dropped and other acts of intimidation and harassment of trade unions are stopped, they cannot credibly participate in a summit on ‘sustainable growth’ of the industry.”