Microsoft: “Corrective measures” taken at KYE factory

Exhausted teenagers sleep during break in their 15-hour shift.

© The National Labor Committee

Back in April last year, the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (back then, the National Labor Committee) issued a report detailing the prison-like conditions in KYE Systems Corporation’s Dongguan City factory. (Oh, you haven’t heard? Neither did I until recently.) With Microsoft being the majority producer of goods at this factory – about 30% – the report was understandably aimed sharply at Microsoft. (Other producers include Hewlett Packard, Best Buy, Samsung, Foxconn, Acer, Wi/IFC/Logitech and Asus-Rd.)

If you haven’t read the report, you really should. It’s angering.

After the report came out, Microsoft immediately responded, starting an investigation and shortly thereafter dispatching a team of both Microsoft and third-party auditors for on-site review. And… that’s all we heard for the year.

With no follow up to be found, I picked up the ball and emailed Microsoft. They responded:

Immediately after the NLC report was issued, we dispatched a team of Microsoft and third-party auditors to the KYE facility to conduct an investigative audit of the full scope of issues raised by the report, and to assess other areas related to working conditions, including labor, ethics, health, safety and environmental practices.  Our investigation found some issues that were contrary to Microsoft's Vendor Code of Conduct and we took corrective measures.  Microsoft takes these types of claims very seriously. Microsoft is committed to the fair treatment and safety of workers employed by our vendors, and to ensuring conformance with Microsoft policy.

I tried pressing for details but got nowhere. I glanced over the aforementioned Vendor Code of Conduct, and found it to be rather thin and ridiculous. For example, the document states a “workweek should not be more than 60 hours a week, including overtime, except in emergency or unusual situations” but doesn’t define what constitutes an emergency or unusual situation. Having received a larger-than-normal order, for example, seems to fit that condition. (An interesting side note here is that it was updated in 2011.)

That said, I do believe Microsoft is sincere here and is one of the more humane players in this space. Folks like Walmart and Hanes, however, don’t care one bit. Sadly, I don’t believe we’ll ever learn what happened at KYE. The NLC’s China Program Coordinator confirmed the blackout of information, stating:

Unfortunately we do not have updates after Microsoft's investigation as our undercover researchers have pulled out and haven't been able to get back.