Microsoft states to be very concerned about the report by the National Labor Committee (NLC) alleging that conditions at a factory operated by KYE in Dongguan, China, were adversely impacting workers. KYE assembles and packages hardware products for Microsoft and a wide range of other companies.
Microsoft states to be very concerned about the report by the National Labor Committee (NLC) alleging that conditions at a factory operated by KYE in Dongguan, China, were adversely impacting workers. KYE assembles and packages hardware products for Microsoft and a wide range of other companies. As a result of this report, Microsoft has a team of independent
auditors en route to the facility to conduct a complete and thorough
investigation.In a blog post dated 15 April 2010, Microsoft promises to address labour situation at supplier KYE, if standards are not met. "If we find that the factory is not adhering to our standards, we will take appropriate action", writes Brian Tobey, corporate vice president of manufacturing and operations of Microsoft's entertainment and devices unit.
Microsoft points out to have rigorous standards in place, and to have established a robust supplier Social and Environmental Accountability (SEA) program.
But the NLC's director, Charles Kernaghan, says Microsoft, the third largest company in the world as of Q3 2009, has ignored the factory's abuses for almost seven years and failed to use its might to force compliance with basic human rights.
"I would believe that Microsoft would have people in the factory," he told FastCompany.com in a phone interview on April 14. Quality control reps from Microsoft would have been perfectly positioned to witness KYE's labor practices--its preference for employing young girls whom it considered easy to discipline and control, Kernaghan said.
It would be aware of punishments for workers that include cleaning the plant's toilets when they make a mistake, sexual harassment that reportedly went on between security guards and the employees, washrooms that were nothing more than a bucket of hot water and a sponge, temperatures inside the plant that climbed to 86 degrees during summer, with the air conditioning only turned on when foreigners came to visit.
April 14, FastCompany.com contacted Microsoft representatives to ask about representatives in the factory and how much the company knew in the seven years it outsourced production to KYE. They responded, promising they were gathering information, presumably to provide answers. Another email sent this morning, however, went unanswered until a representative alerted us to this response on Microsoft's blog.
Kernaghan says he expects Microsoft to downplay the working conditions in China, but says this is a bigger story than Microsoft and KYE. "This is really a battle as to what models of manufacturing are going to win out. And right now, I think Microsoft is putting all of its bets on China. And they are very comfortable with teenagers working in a factory 15 hours a day for $.52 an hour, housed in miserable dormitories. We're being confronted with how the world is going to operate."