Microsoft Accused Over Sweatshop Labor: Report

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft, like competitor Apple before it, has become embroiled in a scandal over the treatment of its foreign workers. But it's arguably more embarrassing, as the details continue to emerge via third-party investigation.

When stories broke about labor violations among staff working overseas on Apple products, the negative publicity was tempered by the fact that it was Apple's own program which uncovered the abuses. That's not the case with the Microsoft allegations, however.

The claims come in a report by the National Labor Committee, an independent pressure group which aims to uncover and highlight poor working conditions among staff in developing nations producing goods for US companies.

Workers Suffer Fifteen Hour Shifts

The report looks at a factory run by the Chinese company KYE, which produces hardware devices for Microsoft. It claims that workers receive only a 52 cents an hour after deductions, work in humid conditions, and are expected to assemble 2,000 computer mice in a 15-hour shift, which calculates to approximately one every 27 seconds.

It's also claimed that as many as a thousand staff are aged either 16 and 17. The firm is said to intentionally target young female employees because "they are easier to discipline and control." (Source:

Recession Makes Conditions Less Awful

In a somewhat bitter irony, it appears falling demand created by the US economic slump may have led to better conditions for the Chinese staff. This is very much a comparative situation, though: the average working time has dropped from 89.5 to 68 hours a week.

The report also states that most workers lived on site and left only at allowed times, usually to study. While living at the factory, they were housed 14 to a room and the only washing facility was a bucket and sponge. (Source:

Microsoft Investigates Investigation

Microsoft has responded to the claims by issuing a statement saying it 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." (Source:

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