Following in the footsteps of Nike and Apple, another mega-corporation has been accused of employing workers in sweatshop-like conditions. This time, it’s Microsoft.
Recently, the company has come under fire after a National Labour Committee report came out regarding KYE, a factory in Dongguan, China, where Microsoft mice and webcams are manufactured. The report found that KYE has been employing young workers (mostly female) between the ages of 18 and 25, with some as young as 16, under grossly unethical working conditions. The young labourers often work 15-hour shifts, with only a few 10-minute breaks, six to seven days a week. And for their hard labour, they make a whopping hourly rate of $ 0.65, which amounts to only $ 0.52 per hour after money is deducted for factory meals, which, according to many workers, are border-line inedible. With the rest of their salaries, they must pay for their own bedding. Employees live on-site at the factory in crammed dormitory style bedrooms. Quite the salary these young women are bringing home.
But despite these human rights violations, production has never been better for the KYE factory and Microsoft; each worker completes 2,000 Microsoft mice per shift. That’s at least 16,000 per week.
Security guards sexually harass female employees and prohibit anyone from speaking, listening to music, or even using the bathroom during working hours. Employees do not enjoy the luxury of a real shower; rather, they must give themselves sponge baths using buckets of hot water they fetch on their own. They are on lock down most of the week and are only allowed to leave the factory compound’s grounds at certain regulated times.
Despite National Labour Committee report, the result of a three-year investigation involving many first-hand accounts of factory labour conditions by former employees, slaves and prisoners really, KYE claims they are in full compliance with Chinese labour regulations. Microsoft is not satisfied and has stepped up to the plate immediately, vowing to launch a full-scale investigation into these allegations.
On the company’s official blog, Brian Tobey, a corporate vice president, assured readers that the company checks in on the factory every quarter to evaluate working conditions and confirm that labour laws are being respected. So far, they have seen no violations. He says, though, that the NLC’s report does raise some concerns, and they will not ignore its findings. According to Tobey, respecting workers and labour regulations is of the utmost importance to Microsoft.
It is inspiring to see such a large, powerful, and visible company like Microsoft taking a report like this seriously. They are setting a positive example that other corporations should feel compelled to follow. Sweatshops and forced labour persist all around the world and it is important to hold manufacturers to a higher standard, requiring them to live up to their ethical and moral values and not exploit workers from underprivileged or underserved communities.
So it would be a really good thing if other companies jump on the bandwagon and check into working conditions at their own factories to ensure the workers we rely on are respected and treated fairly.