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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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