Microsoft Supplier Factory Treats Workers Like "Prisoners"

A damning report from the National Labor Committe, released earlier this week, has highlighted atrocious working conditions at Chinese company KYE Systems Corp, which among other things manufactures control pads for the Xbox 360.

The NLC's report claims that KYE, an electronics manufacturer that supplies hardware for companies like Microsoft (the firm's biggest single customer), Hewlett-Packard, Samsung and Best Buy, is home to some wretched work practices, including:

* Over the past three years, unprecedented photographs of exhausted teenaged workers, toiling and slumping asleep on their assembly line during break time, have been smuggled out of the KYE factory.

* KYE recruits hundreds-even up to 1,000-"work study students" 16 and 17 years of age, who work 15-hour shifts, six and seven days a week. In 2007 and 2008, dozens of the work study students were reported to be just 14 and 15 years old. A typical shift is from 7:45 a.m. to 10:55 p.m.

* Along with the work study students-most of whom stay at the factory three months, though some remain six months or longer-KYE prefers to hire women 18 to 25 years of age, since they are easier to discipline and control.

* In 2007 and 2008, before the worldwide recession, workers were at the factory 97 hours a week while working 80 ½ hours. In 2009, workers report being at the factory 83 hours a week, while working 68 hours.

* Workers are paid 65 cents an hour, which falls to a take-home wage of 52 cents after deductions for factory food.

* Workers are prohibited from talking, listening to music or using the bathroom during working hours. As punishment, workers who make mistakes are made to clean the bathrooms.

* Security guards sexually harass the young women.

* Fourteen workers share each primitive dorm room, sleeping on narrow double-level bunk beds. To "shower," workers fetch hot water in a small plastic bucket to take a sponge bath. Workers describe factory food as awful.

* Not only are the hours long, but the work pace is grueling as workers race frantically to complete their mandatory goal of 2,000 Microsoft mice per shift. During the long summer months when factory temperatures routinely reach 86 degrees, workers are drenched in sweat.

* There is no freedom of movement and workers can only leave the factory compound during regulated hours.

* The workers have no rights, as every single labour law in China is violated. Microsoft's and other companies' codes of conduct have zero impact.

Look, I'm not going to climb up on some moral high horse about this. As I type this, for example, I'm wearing a football shirt and pair of Nike sneakers that were both made in China, most likely under similar conditions. There are places for discussions on this kind of thing, and I don't think here is one of them.

Just, next time you pick up a 360 controller and wonder what goes into making it... well, now you know.

In Microsoft's defence, it's launched an investigation into the conditions at KYE, telling a Seattle newspaper:

Microsoft is committed to the fair treatment and safety of workers employed by our vendors. 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.

Actions for non-compliance with our requirements may include corrective action plans, remedial training, certification requirements, cessation of further business awards until corrective actions are instituted, and termination of the business relationship. We unequivocally support taking immediate actions to address non compliant activities.

China's Youth Meet Microsoft [NLC, via Gizmodo]


    The biggest joke is that slavery never stopped in the western world, they just outsourced it.

    Either pay 20-30% more for everything or pretend all is well, because we know the big Corps/Govs are never going to soak up the cost of making these places better (even though they should).

    Next time you complain about how crappy your 10 hours a week at maccas is, just think, could be worse, you could work there.

    "Just, next time you pick up a 360 controller and wonder what goes into making it… well, now you know."

    yeah 2 of my rechargeable battery packs have just died in less than a year with very little play.

    lazy kids and their shoddy work. go get some coffee :P

      I will always cherish and love my 360 - but seriously, worst controllers ever!
      The guide button almost always eventually stuffs up, the battery packs just give up and sometimes the controller itself poo's itself.

      It's not JUST the D-Pad that is bad about them. They may be comfortable to hold, but they're really poorly made. I wouldn't mind paying a little more of a 360, if it meant, getting a better controller.

    Seriously, they say that an investigation has been launched, what a joke. All big companies, espcially the multinational ones know the horrid work conditions of factories that they outsource their work to, even if it is through a middle man.

    Unfortunatly, people are stupid enough to belive that an investigation means they care or will actually do something good with the results apart from using it as toilet paper.

    But still, im not one to talk, im sure most of the crap i own including the clothes im wearing are made in china in some of those apauling conditions.

    Sounds like the third party intermediary (western companies usually go through a Chinese company as a buffer) didn't give a big enough bribe to this "National Labor Committee"...

    "when factory temperatures routinely reach 86 degrees" had me going for a moment, until I remembered fahrenheit.

      So what it means is 30 degrees. That's bad, but I was expecting worse.

    As if Microsoft and these other companies didn't already know about this nor do they really want to do anything to fix it. If they really wanted to fix it then they'd have to pay more for their products to get manufactured and what company is going to want to make work conditions better by paying more for their products?

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