Microsoft has been accused of using the “slave labour” at a factory in China where its computer mice and Xbox controllers are made after a report said the teenage workers were paid as little as 37 pence per hour.
The report by the National Labour Committee, a US advocacy group for the rights of workers used by big corporations, alleged that 16 and 17 year olds were working 15-hour shifts in crowded conditions often without air-conditioning.
Managers at the KYE Systems factory in Dongguan, southern China, were accused of controlling and bullying workers who sleep 14 to a room and “shower” by taking sponge baths from a small plastic bucket of water.
“The factory is very crowded. In one workshop measuring around 105ft by 105ft, there were nearly 1,000 workers.
“In the summer, temperatures can exceed 86 degrees and workers leave their shifts dripping in sweat.
“It is only when the foreign clients show up that management turns on the air conditioning,” the report’s authors alleged, citing testimony from workers.
“Conditions are so bad and work at the factory so exhausting,” one worker was quoted as saying, “that there are not many people who can bear it for more than a year, and almost never past two years. Most workers flee after just six or eight months.”
Following the report, the software giant said it was sending a team of independent auditors to the inspect factory, adding that the company already conducted quarterly on-site assessments.
“We have a team of independent auditors en route to the facility to conduct a complete and thorough investigation,” said Brian Tobey, who heads manufacturing for Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices unit, in a blog post on the company’s website.
“If we find that the factory is not adhering to our standards, we will take appropriate action,” Mr Tobey said, adding that documentation on worker age required by the company had shown no incidence of child labour.
“Worker overtime has been significantly reduced, and worker compensation is in line with the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition standards for the Dongguan area.”
… Microsoft is not the only company to outsource manufacturing to KYE, but it accounts for about 30 per cent of the factory’s work, the NLC said. Companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, Foxconn, Acer, Logitech and Asus also use KYE Systems.
Microsoft, which exports much of the hardware made at the factory to America, Europe and Japan, said that it is taking the claims seriously and has begun an investigation.
One employee told the NLC: ‘We are like prisoners. It seems like we live only to work – we do not work to live. We do not live a life, only work.’
The NLC’s report included an account from one worker whose job consisted entirely of sticking selfadhesive rubber feet to the bottom of Microsoft computer mice.
But the monotony of sitting or standing for 12 hours, applying foot after foot to mouse after mouse, was not the worst of the worker’s testimony.
It was the militaristic management and sleep deprivation that affected the worker most. ‘I know I can choose not to work overtime, but if I don’t work overtime then I am stuck with only 770 Chinese yuan (£72.77p) per month in basic wages,’ the worker said.
‘This is not nearly enough to support a family. My parents are farmers without jobs. They also do not have pensions.
‘I also need to worry about getting married, which requires a lot of money. Therefore, I still push myself to continue working in spite of my exhaustion.
‘When I finish my four hours of overtime, I’m extremely tired. At that time, even if someone offered me an extravagant dinner, I’d probably refuse. I just want to sleep.’ ..
via Daily Mail