Dhaka- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday inaugurated ‘Dhaka Apparel Summit’ to set the next course of action on achieving $50 billion export target by 2021, said officials on Saturday.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) organized the summit at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in the capital.
The summit was however boycotted by five leading international brands to response to right groups call to bring to an end to the repression on garment workers and union leaders.
The retailers H&M, Inditex, C&A, Next and Tchibo, which source clothes from Bangladeshi factories, pulled out of the summit.
Mohammad Siddiqur Rahman, president of BGMEA, said the association is going to hold the second summit of its kind as a sequel to the success of first Dhaka Apparel Summit.
The summit is also likely to showcase the progress of initiatives taken to improve the safety standard and condition of the workers in the readymade garments sector following the factory disaster in 2013.
The day-long event is expected to be participated by representatives from buyers, brands, university scholars and workers’ representatives who will focus on possible road map to the achievement of Bangladesh’s export target.
The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), an alliance whose members include H&M, Inditex, C&A, Next and Tchibo, also said it was pulling out of the event as the only scheduled speaker from a labor union due to “an increasingly hard-line response” by authorities and industry.
The German retail association and trade union federation also expressed concerns about the reported arrests and dismissal of garments workers in a joint letter to the government.
Bangladeshi government and apparel industry officials dismissed allegations that the labour rights of garment workers had deteriorated since workers protested in Dhaka’s Ashulia industrial district in December demanding higher pay.
BGMEA said the decision by the five western retailers not to attend the summit was unfortunate.
The fashion industry has come under increasing pressure to improve factory conditions and workers’ rights since the Rana Plaza garment factory complex collapsed in Bangladesh four years ago, killing more than 1,100 people.
Campaigners have criticised many retailers for failing to improve working conditions in their supply chains with long hours, low pay, poor safety standards and not being allowed to form trade unions common complaints from garment workers.
More than 1,600 workers were fired, trade union offices shut down and union leaders detained in a “campaign of repression” after the Ashulia protests, activists said.