Microsoft claims that it will investigate the alleged labor violations at the KYE factory in China's Dongguan City, after an April 13 report by the National Labor Committee, a nonprofit NGO. That report suggests that workers producing Microsoft PC cameras and mice are subjected to excessive working hours, poor pay, restricted freedom of movement, harassment by guards, and substandard living conditions. Although Microsoft claims that it uses vigorous auditing to its vendors' working conditions, the report suggests that these conditions at the KYE factory have endured for some time.
Microsoft has promised to investigate allegations of massive
labor violations at a Chinese factory building its products, as
detailed in an
April 13 report by the National Labor Committee, a nonprofit
non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to drawing attention to
human rights abuses.
"Over the past three years, unprecedented photographs of
exhausted teenaged workers, toiling and slumping asleep on their assembly line
during break time, have been smuggled out of the KYE factory" in Dongguan City,
reads the introduction to the National Labor Committee's report. "Workers are
paid 65 cents an hour, which falls to a take-home wage of 52 cents after
deductions for factory food."
The report, entitled "China's Youth Meet Microsoft," can be found here.
Workers at the KYE factory are apparently prevented from
talking, listening to music, or using the bathroom during their shift-while
also enduring harassment by security guards, lack of air conditioning during
the hotter months, 15-hour shifts and
restricted freedom of movement.
The report quotes an unnamed worker saying, "We are like
Microsoft has apparently been outsourcing production,
including the fabrication of PC cameras and a variety of optical and wireless
mice, to the KYE factory since 2003. Other clients of the facility include
Hewlett-Packard, Acer and Best Buy.
"Microsoft is committed to the fair treatment and safety of
workers employed by our vendors," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in an email to
eWEEK April 14. "Microsoft has invested heavily in a vendor accountability
program and robust independent third-party auditing program to ensure
conformance with the Microsoft Vendor Code of Conduct."
Having been made aware of the NLC report, Microsoft
says that it has commenced an investigation
. "We take these claims
seriously, and we will take appropriate remedial measures in regard to any
findings of vendor misconduct," the
spokesperson wrote. Those remedial measures could apparently include
remedial training and termination of the actual business relationship.
However, the report documents a number of these factory
conditions extending back to at least 2007, when it suggests that Microsoft and
other companies declined to vocally support changes in China's labor contract
laws that would have deeded rights such as severance pay and signed contracts
to workers. One might ask why Microsoft's "vendor accountability program" and
"robust independent third-party auditing program" failed to uncover the
operating conditions at the KYE factory.
Other tech companies routinely audit suppliers and
manufacturers for potential human-rights and labor-law abuses. In a 2009 audit,
found 17 violations of its Code of Conduct
, including the use of underage
workers, in a review of 102 facilities. However, that oversight failed to
prevent controversy over conditions at Apple iPhone and iPod manufacturer
included allegations of abuse leading to the suicide of an engineer in July