Microsoft investigating Chinese sweatshop accusations

KYE Systems, a factory in China has been accused of being a sweatshop. The National Labor Committee got inside the organization and got pictures and quotes from the staff. "We are like prisoners... We do not have a life, only work." said one of the teenage workers.

KYE Systems manufactures mice, keyboards and webcams for Microsoft. The factory recruits 16 and 17 year old high school students to work during their summer break. The teenagers would then be required to work 15 hour shifts, six to seven days a week.

The factory prohibits anyone, including their clients like Microsoft, to take pictures inside the factory or in the workers dirty dorm rooms. Photos were eventually leaked out showing the workers napping during their breaks because they are so exhausted.

Management instructs the workers to "answer the clients' questions very carefully. They should say they never work more than 12 hours a day and overtime is less than 36 hours a month." Workers are told to respond they are "very satisfied" when asked about working conditions, their dorms and meals. To make this sound even more "authentic," workers are told to "spontaneously" mention other factories where they had worked in the past, where conditions were "awful." They are more "hopeful" now that that they are working at KYE.

Microsoft has decided to look in to the issue, "Microsoft is committed to the fair treatment and safety of workers employed by our vendors," a Microsoft spokesperson told Ars. "Microsoft has invested heavily in a vendor accountability program and robust independent third-party auditing program to ensure conformance to the Microsoft Vendor Code of Conduct. 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."

But, according to the NLC, "The workers did tell us that Microsoft representatives have visited and walked through the KYE factory, always being accompanied by mid and high-level managers.  On these walk-throughs, U.S. company representatives hardly ever speak to the workers."

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27 Comments

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As far as buying goods from China, as much as the U.S. owes China, it's almost patriotic to buy goods from them, lol.

I believe that the Microsoft CEOs are probably genuinely concerned about this issue, it was the guys who went there and walked around before and didn't make an issue out of it that are to blame. I hope either this company straightens up or Microsoft jerks their contract.

Reading the whole article, it probably pictures some great amount of companies doing this practice in PRC. It really left me wondering what steps have been taken by all (the government, community, and all other groups), to prevent these kinds of things from happening.

All I know for sure is that companies will do anything for money nowadays, including underpaying their employees even if they know it's not humane. That's why it have become challenges for every one that's concerned to change this practice. And that challenges are not easy to face.

I agree. Any company that _works for you_ and won't let you photograph the inside of the factory or plant is a huge red flag. There's far too much wrist-slapping going on today. I am glad Microsoft is at least showing some balls and looking into it. Nobody should be forced to work under those conditions.

It's absolutely repulsive. But its also interesting to see that no one is giving Microsoft any credit here. Without much outside pressure, Microsoft is investigating and will correct any wrong doing. That's a lot better than companies who either don't care or simply look the other way even though they know what's going on. There's words and there's action. At least Microsoft is following through on its policies.

That being said, I am curious how a factory that prohibits Microsoft from taking any photos inside was able to pass their Code of Confuct rules. That would be a red flag to me.

If the companies find out that these accusations are true the moral thing to do is break the contract with KYE Systems. If the do not, then us as a customer should voice our outrage to the company and inform them that we will not buy their product and will blog about this indiscretion.

primortal said,
If the companies find out that these accusations are true the moral thing to do is break the contract with KYE Systems. If the do not, then us as a customer should voice our outrage to the company and inform them that we will not buy their product and will blog about this indiscretion.

I'd like to see you not buying anything from Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Samsung, Best Buy, Foxconn, Acer, Logitech etc.

primortal said,
If the companies find out that these accusations are true the moral thing to do is break the contract with KYE Systems. If the do not, then us as a customer should voice our outrage to the company and inform them that we will not buy their product and will blog about this indiscretion.
over half of what you own is probably made in china

primortal said,
If the companies find out that these accusations are true the moral thing to do is break the contract with KYE Systems. If the do not, then us as a customer should voice our outrage to the company and inform them that we will not buy their product and will blog about this indiscretion.

The companies may break their relationship with KYE but they will probably move to another factory with similar practices.

Here in the west we want everything cheaper and it's the new world that suffers. We used to import slaves now we just let them live in their own country.

this is what happens when the free market runs without regulation or the free market seeks a freer market (free of morals)

And that sort of comment is exactly what happens when you don't read the article. Allow me to highlight what you clearly missed:

"Microsoft has invested heavily in a vendor accountability program and robust independent third-party auditing program to ensure conformance to the Microsoft Vendor Code of Conduct."

C_Guy said,
And that sort of comment is exactly what happens when you don't read the article. Allow me to highlight what you clearly missed:

"Microsoft has invested heavily in a vendor accountability program and robust independent third-party auditing program to ensure conformance to the Microsoft Vendor Code of Conduct."

Microsoft setting up a third-party auditing program != better government regulations and enforcement. In 90% of cases, it's only when issues like this are brought to the news that companies pretend to give a damn.

Microsoft, Apple, HP, Samsung, Best Buy, Foxconn, Acer and Logitech should divvy up a millions for their abused Chinese workers

artfuldodga said,
Microsoft, Apple, HP, Samsung, Best Buy, Foxconn, Acer and Logitech should divvy up a millions for their abused Chinese workers

This is something that is beyond their control. They're not in control of who gets hired there. However, they should be picking better manufacturers.

lol, beyond their control..
hire folks whos job it is to constantly monitor working conditions at various locations, oh my god, solved

Edited by dingl_, Apr 14 2010, 11:18pm :

artfuldodga said,
lol, beyond their control..
hire folks whos job it is to constantly monitor working conditions at various locations, oh my god, solved

Easier said than done in China though.

Frylock86 said,

Easier said than done in China though.

Indeed. It sounds like they're trying to improve the situation, but these ARE independent businesses...

I'm glad to see Microsoft trying to do something bout it though...

artfuldodga said,
lol, beyond their control..
hire folks whos job it is to constantly monitor working conditions at various locations, oh my god, solved

ROFL, Apple have tried that. Guess what happened? The companies hid the goings on from them.

Something to think about whenever you purchase computer/electronic hardware. Gets you thinking about what people in 2nd & 3rd-world countries have to do to scrape by...

kizuran said,
Something to think about whenever you purchase computer/electronic hardware. Gets you thinking about what people in 2nd & 3rd-world countries have to do to scrape by...

What choice do we have any more? It's near impossible to find anything that doesn't have a "Made in China" sticker slapped on it. I wish companies would stop outsourcing to that place but that's clearly not going happen.

TRC said,

What choice do we have any more? It's near impossible to find anything that doesn't have a "Made in China" sticker slapped on it. I wish companies would stop outsourcing to that place but that's clearly not going happen.

It's not just China.

Some of the minerals used in Circuit boards come from Africa, and are no better than Blood Diamonds.. But no one wants to hear about that..