Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

April 19, 2010 -

A Chinese factory that provides computer parts and Xbox 360 controllers to Microsoft, and other U.S. companies, has seen the conditions of its workers scrutinized in a scathing report issued by The National Labor Committee (NLC).

The NLC report focused on the KYE Factory in Dongguan City, Guangdong and offered a laundry list of complaints. Among them, workers earn an average of 65 cents an hour (52 cents per hour after deducting for food), workers average 68 hours of work per week, and that workers are prohibited from “talking, listening to music or using the bathroom” during working hours.

Additionally, the factory was said to have a preference for hiring 18 to 25 year old women, as “they are easier to discipline and control,” and also hires “work-study students,” or 16 and 17 year olds who work mandatory 15-hour shifts six or seven days per week.  Workers also share lodging in “primitive” dorm rooms that house up to 14 people.

The NLC report is illustrated by pictures of workers asleep on assembly lines during their break time.

Another snapshot of working conditions offered by the NLC report:

Workers who make a mistake are humiliated in two ways.  They can be taken off the production line and ordered to pick up trash, sweep the factory floor and clean the bathrooms.  This happens every day, and it is done during working hours to humiliate the teenager in front of his or her friends and co-workers.

Other companies that source products from the KYE Factory include Hewlett Packard, Best Buy, Samsung, Foxconn, Acer, Wi/IFC/Logitech and Asus-Rd. While the factory does seem to focus on producing mice and webcams, a record of Microsoft importing Xbox 360 controllers (PDF) from the factory was attached to the NLC report.

Microsoft, for its part, said in a statement, “We regret that the NLC reported a one-sided story without offering us a chance to explain.” However, the Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft is sending a team of independent auditors to the facility in order to conduct a “complete and thorough investigation.”

Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Manufacturing and Operations, Brian Tobey also stated that worker pay was in line with labor standard for the area.


Comments

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

I hope heads roll over this, since they did break the Chinese laws. Anyone know where I might find follow ups on this story?

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Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it's over they have the same positions they started in.

---------------------------------------------------- Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it's over they have the same positions they started in.

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

Followup would imply that someone actually gave a damn about the issues presented. In China they do not care. Period. Local officials do not care, because those businesses give them lots of bribe money. Higher officials don't really care, since they are pretty insulated from these kinds of things. An uprising of workers would only happen where those factories are. They could care less in Bejing or Shanghai. They'll send the army in just to give some face, but that's really the extent to which they care. It's more about ensuring the money keeps flowing, and a closed factory does not generate money.

Even in the Sichuan earthquake no official, from the highest level to the lowest person, apparently gave a damn that thousands of kids were killed in poorly constructed 'tofu building' schools that literally pancaked during the school day. Find blueprints of how such schools were poorly constructed? Oh that's a state secret and a one way trip to hard labor in the ass end of Mongolia. Try to get compensation for the death of your only child? Nope, no one is liable, too bad parents you're SOL.

 

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

"The workers have no rights, as every single labor law in China is violated."

Wait China has labor laws?

----------------------------------------------------

Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it's over they have the same positions they started in.

---------------------------------------------------- Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it's over they have the same positions they started in.

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

What's funny is Microsoft themselves are feeding this problem by disabling third party devices.

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

My dad ordered a camera lens from China, and they accidentally sent him two, he was actually afraid to let them know that because of what might happen to the person who made the mistake.

There have been conditions like this in several countries, it's not so much about Capitalism in the country involved, more about the effect of capitalist countries. We love out cheap shit, and yet rarely stop to wonder why it's cheap. This is why.

So it's a two-edged sword, yes, you could do something about these terrible conditions, but you'd pay for it out of your own pocket, I wonder how many people wouldn't complain if prices went up in line with wages in these countries.

Now, as an appendum, I'll add that the companies themselves could work to a lesser profit margin, but this is something that needs to be worked out between the producer, the retailer and the consumer, it's not going to work by simply pointing at countries and shouting.

I suppose one plus side is that the equalisation of wages would mean that it would be cheaper for companies to look for home-grown employment rather than outsourcing.

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

15 hours?!? man, and I thought 2 hours mandatory overtime was bad.


Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

It's odd how companies have managed to turn an oxymoron into a policy...

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

Would MS do that without the NLC report? NO.

 

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

Is anyone really surprised to see a Chinese factory with poor working conditions? I thought that was the status quo.

It is a shame that the Chinese Government allows such Human/Worker Rights violations within their borders in an effort to keep costs down and international trade up. It won't change either until companies outside the Chinese borders decide that Human life and well being is more important than cutting costs.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

Mmm... Unregulated Free Market Capitalism at it's finest!

And people wonder why the government steps in to regulate and control these things in America. And yet, many people, especially Free Market Capitalists in America, want our Country to look just like that.

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

You do know that China isn't a Capitalist nation, right?

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Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

LOL...

Talk about ignorance... Yes, the Government is Officially communist, but the Economy is staggeringly similar to a Capitalist System. In fact, a number of Conservative Talk Show hosts that I've listened to point to the Economic Success of China as something that we, in America should emulate. As far as governmental regulations on their businesses go, they are pretty much nonexistant. There's no protection for Worker Rights (Communist? LOL), no environmental regulations, and no wage regulations.

That's about as Free Market Capitalist as it gets.

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

You do realize that one can be for a free market and for human/worker rights don't you? It is possible.

Are there people out there that want to increase profits at all costs? yes. Are there people that want to increase profits while at the same time showing true compassion for the employees of the company? Yes. Are there people that feel that government should regulate business so much that it becomes impossible to profit? Yes.

Things are not black and white.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

First, I never said it was Black and White. You are just putting words in my mouth, there.

Second: I've tried to make sure that I used the term "Free Market Capitalists" or some derivation thereof, to describe the people who want this in America. The most literal defintion of Free Market Capitalism is an economic system with little to no government influence. No regulations, no subsidies, no influence whatsoever. To that end, my descriptions here are accurate.

Also, Make no mistake, the desire for Free Market Capitalism is a Conservative View, and those that hold it overwhelmingly vote Republican, or even Libertarian. Therefore, It's also accurate to describe those who hold it as Conservatives.

If people read my comments and can't seem to fathom that not ALL conservatives think the way I've described, it's not my fault. It's their idiocy that's causing that interpretation, not my words.

TL;DR: Stop putting words in my mouth. My terminology here was accurate to the best of my knowledge and effort. My argument isn't invalid because I don't feel like highlighting EVERY exception. Nothing is EVER black and white, and if somebody thinks that, they are an idiot.

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

When did I put words in your mouth? I interpretted your comment and responded accordingly. If I summarized your point or misquoted you your claim of putting words in your mouth would have been valid.

I interprettd your comments as "Government Regulation: Good. Free Market: Bad" and derived that you feel the US capitalist debate is black and white.

In a true free market, businesses are free to increase their profits without government interference or subsidies and workers are free to seek better working conditions without government interference or subsidies. No where in a free market does it say that either cannot ever happen.

If no one will work for a business, it will fail. If a business creates an ideal work place, people will work for them and the business will succeed. That is the true definition of a free market in worker rights terms.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

The problem here is that, in practice, your argument about employees being able to find better employment elsewhere doesn't work.

For a REAL look into what our country would look like with little to no Government Regulation, one simply needs to look at a history book. During the Industrial Revolution, we had almost NO regulations regarding the Environment and Workers rights. Guess who had all of the power? That's right, the Employers! They got to make the money while their employees suffered on barely livable wages, got to pollute to their heart's content, and had a stranglehold on the American Economy that was absolutely frightening. The poverty gap was HUGE, and there was no real "Middle Class" like it exists today.

The fact is that when an employer, especially one who employes unskilled or uneducated workers, is faced with the choice between improving working conditions and paying their employees more, or having the lowest costing product on the market, they will almost always pick the latter. This can differ for products where attracting the best skill makes a better product, but for most manufacturing, blue collar, "American" jobs, that's not the case.

All other things being equal, the majority of people just won't pay more money for a product from a company that treats it's employees better or does less to pollute the environment, which means that most Employers won't have the incentive to do those things, which results in situations similar to what we saw in the American Industrial Revolution and what we currently see in China.

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

I am not going to argue that workers deserve healthy and safe working enviroments. That should be a given. What I am arguing against is the current state of Unions and their primary goal to get more money for less work. With laws such as those that created OSHA, there is no use for unions other than to bully employers into paying higher benefits to the worker with little to no incentive for the employer. That is all they currently do.

As for wages, There is quite a bit of economic research that indicates that the Federal Minimum Wage has actually caused more harm on the economy that it has good. http://www.heritage.org/Research/Testimony/The-Economic-Effects-of-the-M...

Sure people are less likely to purchase products based on the ethics of the manufacturer, but they are more likely to pay a premium for higher quality goods. Skilled workers working in a quality environment will produce better products. Those products will be noticed and purchased by the consumer.

Will there still be a market for cheap low quality goods? Always. The same goes for more expensive higher quality products as well.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

Not to go completely off topic, but I've always argued that the Communist system of government in China, not the capitalist system, has been the majority of the cause of these kinds of incidents. Basically here is the mentality of your typical Chinese citizen, and this applies from the lowest labourer melting lead off of e-waste, to the highest government official.

"At any instant everything I have worked for can be taken away by the government. I will have no recourse and I will be in jail if lucky, or just shot outright. If I piss off the wrong official, or not bribe someone, this will happen. Therefore I absoultely must take EVERYTHING POSSIBLE RIGHT NOW, because tomorrow it will be gone."

Basically if you think that at any point, you can be basically robbed of all your own, your mentality is to hoard everything you can as quickly as possible. Why bother with laws and such, since literally everyone else is breaking them. There is no social incentive to cooperate. Thus everyone defects. The economic system has never been the issue, its the governmental system that is the problem. These problems have always existed in China since the Great Revolution. High level thinking of the 'greater good' or 'the environment' are easy for us Westerners, since we have basic protections to property. Where such protections are not available, there is literally no incentive to care.

The mining industry is a good example of this. The edict from the head government is "no more mine disasters!". As an official in the local province what is your reaction? Is it to increase safety inspections? To increase fines? To shutdown mines? Nope. The easy way is to simply NOT REPORT them. A mine collapses? Literally bury the mine entrance and build a condo. See no mine disasters here! The lack of social incentives to cooperate means that these kinds of incidents will continue.

I don't think aruging that 'capitalism is bad' is really relevant here. Even in America we don't actually have a total free market capitalist economy. Just like we don't really have a pure democracy. It's a spectrum, and it depends on where you fall in that spectrum. Saying China's problems are because of their "Free Market Capitalism" is simplistic and really white washes the true issues that are going on there, which are complicated economic and social issues.

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

He knows and doesn't care. This is just one of the many excuses he finds to bash Republicans and Republican ideals

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

I explained it below. To hide behind the thin argument that China isn't OFFICIALLY a Capitalist country is pretty sad, when, in fact, they have some of the weakest regulations on Private industry that exist in modern countries.

The findings in this report are EXACTLY what you get if Conservative Free Market Capitalists get their way.

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

If you think China has an unregulated free market, you are mistaken. They actively regulate anything even remotely resembling Unionization in order to prevent things like Human/Worker rights from being introduced. They actively regulate the economy in order to keep costs down so that they can appeal more to foriegn businesses.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: Chinese MSFT Supplier Under Fire for Worker Conditions

Ooh, even BETTER to support my argument. Not only are they lacking in a vast majority of regulations to protect worker rights and the environment, the Chinese Government is actively suppressing Unions. No, that's not officially Free Market Capitalism, but let's not kid ourselves. Outlawing Labor Unions is something that many on the right in America would LOVE to do. In fact, I've heard countless Conservatives Advocate for an outright BAN on any and all Labor Unions. Sounds like many on the right really DO want to turn our economy into China's.

 
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