Earlier this week, we told you about how a large number of employees at a Foxconn factory in China had threatened mass suicide having been “denied compensation they were promised”.
Microsoft assured us at the time that it would look into the matter, and has informed Kotaku that it has now completed “an independent investigation of this issue”. How it managed this as the client company in question investigating a factory located in a country notorious for state secrecy and human rights violations I don’t know, but here’s what Microsoft told us.
Microsoft is one of many companies that contracts with Foxconn to manufacture hardware. Upon learning of the labour protest in Wuhan, we immediately conducted an independent investigation of this issue.
After talking with workers and management, it is our understanding that the worker protest was related to staffing assignments and transfer policies, not working conditions. Due to regular production adjustments, Foxconn offered the workers the option of being transferred to alternative production lines or resigning and receiving all salary and bonuses due, according to length of service. After the protest, the majority of workers chose to return to work. A smaller portion of those employees elected to resign.
Microsoft takes working conditions in the factories that manufacture its products very seriously. We have a stringent Vendor Code of Conduct that spells out our expectations, and we monitor working conditions closely on an ongoing basis and address issues as they emerge. Microsoft is committed to the fair treatment and safety of workers employed by our vendors and to ensuring conformance with Microsoft policy.
This skips entirely over the original allegations, that the staff had asked for a raise and were instead threatened with either relocation or a compensated resignation.
It also does not explain why staff would protest and threaten suicide over “regular production adjustments”.
I’m not saying Microsoft is lying here, as they can only tell us what they’ve been told themselves. But that’s the problem. Outsourcing manufacturing to China may result in larger volumes of goods and cheaper costs, but it also leaves companies like Microsoft in the situation where they at first don’t even know what’s going on in factories making their goods, and then have to rely on what they’re told by Foxconn employees and staff, words given the climate of fear and depression that exists in these factory cities have to be taken with more than a grain of salt.