Software giant Microsoft is using teenagers as "slave labour" at Chinese factory that makes its computer mice and Xbox controllers, according to a new report.Workers aged just 16 and 17 are working 15 hour shifts six and seven days a week for as little as 37p an hour, according to the National Labour Committee.
The US group which protects the rights of people working for big corporations, claimed that managers at KYE Systems factory in Dongguan, southern China, were controlling and bullying workers who sleep 14 to a room and "shower" by taking sponge baths from a small plastic bucket of water. The report, put together after a three-year investigation, found workers were treated like prisoners and share primitive dorm rooms, sleeping on small plywood planks and having to buy their own food and mattresses. It even alleged sexual harassment of female workers by security guards. It said conditions were cramped, often without air conditioning. "The factory is very crowded. 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 report said, quoting testimony from workers."Conditions are so bad and work at the factory so exhausting," one worker was quoted as saying, "that there are not many people who can bear it for more than a year, and almost never past two years. Most workers flee after just six or eight months."
The report found that the workers had no rights and were stopped from talking, listening to music or using the bathroom during work hours. Workers who made mistakes were forced to clean the bathrooms. One told the NLC that they were treated "like prisoners.” “It seems like we live only to work,” they said.The factory makes computer mice for Microsoft and products for companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Best Buy, Samsung, Foxconn, Acer, Logitech and Asus.
Microsoft said it has dispatched a team of investigators to the inspect factory, adding that the company already carry out four on-site assessments a year. It comes after a Chinese factory worker committed suicide in July last year after reporting an iPhone prototype missing. Sydney Morning Herald reported how the worker, Sun Danyong, 25, was so scared of the wrath of his bosses and Apple that he committed suicide by jumping out of a 12th-floor window.