Microsoft Opens Probe after China Factory Report

Labor group says workers at KYE Systems Corp. factory have no rights as 'every single labor law in China is being violated.'

Microsoft said on April 14 it had opened an investigation following a report of harsh working conditions at a factory in China that makes products for the software giant.

The Pittsburgh-based National Labor Committee (NLC), in a report released on April 13, denounced conditions at a KYE Systems Corp. factory in the city of Dongguan in Guangdong province.

The NLC, a private group with a stated mission to "help defend the human rights of workers in the global economy," said KYE recruits hundreds of "work study students" aged 16 and 17 years old who work 15-hour shifts, six and seven days a week.

It said that in 2007 and 2008, before the recession, "workers were at the factory 97 hours a week while working 80-and-a-half hours."

"In 2009, workers report being at the factory 83 hours a week, while working 68 hours," the NLC said.

It said workers were 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," the NLC report said, adding that "as punishment, workers who make mistakes are made to clean the bathrooms.

"The workers have no rights, as every single labor law in China is violated," the report alleged. "Microsoft's and other companies' codes of conduct have zero impact."

Microsoft said it takes the claims "seriously" and vowed to "take appropriate remedial measures in regard to any findings of vendor misconduct."

"Microsoft is committed to the fair treatment and safety of workers employed by our vendors," the Redmond, Washington-based company said. "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."

The NLC report said the factory makes computer mice for Microsoft, as well as products for other companies, including Hewlett-Packard, Best Buy, Samsung, Foxconn, Acer, Logitech and Asus.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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