Monday 7 March 2011

Chinese teens 'like prisoners' in Microsoft tech factory

April, 2010
Source: Yahoo News

During work hours, 1,000 workers could be crammed into one 105-foot by 105-foot room. Inside the factory, to which Microsoft has outsourced since at least 2003, workers assembled such Microsoft products as the LifeCam VX-7000, Basic Optical Mouse and Wireless Notebook Laser Mouse 6000, according to the NLC.

Thousands of Chinese teens and young adults work 15 hours a day at 65 cents per hour, prohibited from talking or listening to music, in abysmal conditions at the KYE Systems factory where they assemble Microsoft hardware that is exported to the United States, Europe and Japan.

So reports the National Labor Committee, which on Tuesday released the culmination of three years of incognito interviews and photography inside the infamous Dongguan, China, gadget factories. Though Microsoft is not the only company to outsource manufacturing to KYE, it accounts for about 30 percent of the factory's work, the NLC said. "We are like prisoners," one worker told the NLC. "It seems like we live only to work. We do not work to live. We do not live a life, only work."

The workers – mostly women aged 18 to 25 – work from to They eat horrid meals from the factory cafeterias. They have no bathroom breaks during their shifts, and must clean the toilets as discipline, according to the NLC. They sleep in factory dormitories, 14 workers to a room. They must buy their own mattresses and bedding, or else sleep on 28-inch-wide plywood boards. They "shower" with a sponge and a bucket. And many of the workers, because they're young women, are regularly sexually harassed, the NLC alleges.Young workers rest during a rare 10-minute break while manufacturing Microsoft mice at a KYE Systems factory in Dongguan, China.

Companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, Foxconn, Acer, Logitech and Asus also outsource production to KYE Systems.

"Since the young Chinese workers would never dream of making demands against Microsoft or the other corporations, this permits the corporations to tout their codes of conduct while knowing full well that they will never be implemented. It's all just part of the game."

The National Labor Committee's report includes a narrative from one KYE factory worker whose jobs consisted entirely of sticking self-adhesive rubber feet to the bottom of Microsoft computer mice. Peel, place, repeat.

But the monotony of sitting (or standing) for 12 hours, applying foot after foot to mouse after mouse, was not the worst of the worker's testimony. It was the militaristic management and sleep deprivation that affected the worker most, according to the NLC's report. "I know that I can choose not to work overtime, but if I don't work overtime, then I am stuck with only 770 (Chinese yuan, or $112.67, per month) in base wages," the worker said, as reported by the NLC. "This is not nearly enough to support a family. My parents are farmers without jobs. They also do not have pensions. I also need to worry about getting married, which requires a lot of money.  "Therefore, I still push myself to continue working in spite of my exhaustion. When I finish my four hours of overtime, I'm extremely tired. At this time, even if someone offered me an extravagant dinner, I probably would refuse. I just want to sleep!"

Teens and young adults make up the majority of workers at the KYE Systems factory, which produces many Microsoft hardware products.

Though many factories are known for sweatshop-like conditions, Microsoft may not be entirely knowledgeable about the alleged environment at KYE Systems.  "Corporate audits of the KYE factory by Microsoft and other high-tech companies have also failed miserably over the last several years," the NLC's report states. "At the KYE factory the process of preparing for monitoring visits is somewhat subtle. Management instructs the workers to 'answer the clients' questions very carefully.' They should say they never work more than 12 hours a day and overtime is less than 36 hours a month.  "Workers are told to respond they are 'very satisfied' when asked about working conditions, their dorms and meals. To make this sound even more 'authentic,' workers are told to 'spontaneously' mention other factories where they had worked in the past, where conditions were 'awful.' They are more 'hopeful' now that that they are working at KYE."

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