Microsoft accused of condoning labour abuses

Teenagers are being treated like prisoners at a Chinese factory that makes Microsoft products, according to a report from the National Labor Committee (NLC).

The report  says that Microsoft’s codes of practice have ‘zero impact’ at the KYE Factory in Dongguan. A typical shift is 15 hours, during which employees are expected to produce 2,000 Microsoft mice.

It cites one worker saying: “We are like prisoners. It seems like we live only to work. We do not work to live. We do not have a life. Only work.”

They’re paid 65 cents per hour, and are banned from talking, listening to music or using the bathroom during working hours, the NLC says.  

While Microsoft is the largest client of the KYE factory, it’s not the only one. HP, Best Buy, Samsung, Foxconn, Acer, Wi/IFC/Logitech and Asus-Rd are also believed to outsource production there.

And the NLC claims that the companies are well aware of what is going on.

“Since the young Chinese workers would never dream of making demands against Microsoft or the other corporations, this permits the corporations to tout their codes of conduct while knowing full well that they will never be implemented,” it claims. “It’s all just part of the game.”

Microsoft’s Vendor Code of Conduct,  needless to say, calls for its factories to “pay living wages under humane conditions” and “not require workers to work more than the maximum hours of daily labor set by local laws; ensure that overtime is voluntary and paid in accordance with local laws and regulations.”

Chinese labour laws  were amended two years ago to imrove worker protection. But, says the NLC, “the 28 hours of overtime the workers routinely put in each week still exceeds China’s legal limit on permissible overtime hours by 237 percent.”

In a statement, Microsoft told us it has invested ‘heavily’ in a vendor accountability programme and an independent third-party auditing programme.

“We are aware of the NLC report, and we have commenced an investigation. We take these claims seriously, and we will take appropriate remedial measures in regard to any findings of vendor misconduct,” it said.

Policing foreign suppliers can be difficult. Apple recently admitted in its Supplier responsibility Report  that more than half were overworking staff and several using underage labour.