Microsoft studies claims of child labour abuse at Chinese supplier

The computing giant Microsoft is investigating claims that Chinese factory staff are working in sweatshop conditions to make its products.

A three-year undercover investigation by a workers' rights campaign group found that teenagers lived and worked in cramped conditions at factories in the Guangdong province of China, earning just a few dollars a day.

And while the factory owner, KYE, said that it complies with child labour laws and with Microsoft's code of conduct, the investigation was told that many of the students at the factory on so-called "work-study" programmes were in fact aged 14 or 15.

The Pittsburgh-based National Labor Committee (NLC) published photographs smuggled out of the factory, showing workers slumped asleep at factory lines during a half-hour break. It said that workers were forbidden to talk or go to the lavatory during production hours, and workers who dropped products were punished by being made to clean the bathrooms. It says a typical shift is from 7.45am to 10.55pm, before workers retire to 14-room dormitories.

Charles Kernaghan, director of the NLC, described the crowded conditions at the factory. "In one workshop measuring around 105ft by 105ft, there were nearly 1,000 workers. In the summer, temperatures can exceed 86 degrees and workers leave their shifts dripping in sweat. It is only when the foreign clients show up that management turns on the air conditioning."

The KYE factories produce up to 2,000 computer mice for Microsoft each shift, along with other products. It has been a Microsoft contractor since 2003.

"In 2009, workers report being at the factory 83 hours a week, while working 68 hours," the NLC said. They were paid 65 cents an hour, "which falls to a take-home wage of 52 cents after deductions for factory food".

Microsoft said it is "committed to the fair treatment and safety" of workers employed by its vendors. All sub-contractors have to sign up to a code of conduct with promises they will "pay living wages under humane conditions". No one under 15 can be employed under the code, and under-18s have to be kept away from hazardous work. "We are aware of the NLC report," a Microsoft spokesman said, "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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Tax Manager / Accountant

£35 - £50k DOE: Guru Careers: A Tax Manager / Accountant (ACA / CA / CTA) is n...

Ashdown Group: Contracts Executive - City of London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Contracts Executive - Cit...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Debt Collector - Multiple Roles

£21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks