Microsoft team goes to China to check out sweat shop claims

Apr 15, 2010, 3:36 PM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

Earlier this week a national labor group claimed some of Microsoft’s products were being made in sweat shops in China. The National Labor Committee says in this report workers spent 15 hours a day on the job and only made 65 cents an hour. The report also alleges that security guards sexually harassed young workers.

Microsoft is sending a team to the KYE facility in Dongguan, China to investigate the claims. Brian Tobey, a Microsoft VP of manufacturing, says they will take actions if they find the factory was not following company standards.

Tobey says in a blog post this afternoon those standards include required documentation and verification of workers’ ages. He also says they have had regular inspections of the plant and “no incidence of child labor has been detected. Worker overtime has been significantly reduced, and worker compensation is in line” with requirements.

The Microsoft inspectors will try to determine the truth of statements like this from 15-year-old worker quoted in the labor report as saying, “We are like prisoners… We do not have a life, only work.”

microsoft

The 35 page report on the alleged Microsoft sweat shop includes many pictures of young Chinese workers, mostly women, looking exhausted or trying to sleep.

Other claims from the report:

  • Along with the work study students – most of whom stay at the factory three months, though some remain six months or longer -KYE prefers to hire women 18 to 25 years of age, since they are easier to discipline and control.
  • In 2007 and 2008, before the worldwide recession, workers were at the factory 97 hours a week while working 80 hours. In 2009, workers report being at the factory 83 hours a week, while working 68 hours.
  • Workers are paid 65 cents an hour, which falls to a take-home wage of 52 cents after deductions for factory food.
  • Workers are prohibited from talking, listening to music or using the bathroom during working hours. As punishment, workers who make mistakes are made to clean the bathrooms.
  • Fourteen workers share each primitive dorm room, sleeping on narrow double-level bunk beds. To “shower,” workers fetch hot water in a small plastic bucket to take a sponge bath. Workers describe factory food as awful.
  • Not only are the hours long, but the work pace is grueling as workers race frantically to complete their mandatory goal of 2,000 Microsoft mice per shift. During the long summer months when factory temperatures routinely reach 86 degrees, workers are drenched in sweat.

Finding solutions will be the challenge. The report also says Microsoft’s and other companies’ codes of conduct have “zero impact” because workers in China have “no rights.”

photo courtesy nlcnet.org

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Microsoft team goes to China to check out sweat shop claims