The planned boycott, which also includes H&M, C&A, Next and Tchibo, comes after a crackdown on Bangladesh labour activists

The planned boycott, which also includes H&M, C&A, Next and Tchibo, comes after a crackdown on Bangladesh labour activists

A cohort of leading apparel companies, including Spanish clothing giant Inditex, have withdrawn from the Dhaka Apparel Summit, organised by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

The planned boycott, which also includes H&M, C&A, Next and Tchibo, comes after a crackdown on Bangladesh labour activists carried out by the Bangladesh government and factory owners over the last two months, which has cost the country's garment industry around US$100m, according to its trade body.

Bangladesh crackdown has cost garment sector $100m

"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," says Mirjam van Heugten from labour group Clean Clothes Campaign.

The event, which will be held on 25 February, is the Bangladesh garment industry's signature annual event, with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh as the keynote speaker. The Ethical Trading Initiative, representing numerous apparel brands, has also withdrawn, as has the only scheduled speaker from a labour union.

The unprecedented decision of apparel brands and other international actors to withdraw from the event is a "major embarrassment" for the Bangladesh government and the BGMEA, adds Clean Clothes Campaign. "It underscores growing international concern over the deterioration of labour rights in the Bangladesh garment industry."