Microsoft supplier criticized for 'prison-like' factory

Microsoft supplier criticized for 'prison-like' factory

Summary: A Chinese firm that supplies keyboards and peripherals for a number of technology companies has been criticized over the working conditions in one of its factories.

TOPICS: Hardware, Microsoft
A Chinese firm that supplies keyboards and peripherals for a number of technology companies has been criticized over the working conditions in one of its factories.

The Chinese firm, KYE Systems, supplies US companies including Microsoft and HP.

The National Labor Committee (NLC), a human rights group, described working conditions in the KYE factory in Dongguan province as being "like a prison".

"The young people are trapped because of the working hours," NLC director Charles Kernaghan told ZDNet UK on Wednesday. "They get pitiful wages in military conditions with grueling production schedules. This place is like a prison."

Before the recession, 5,000 workers aged as young as 16 years would work 15-hour shifts, seven days per week, Kernaghan said. The 3,000 employees at the factory work an 83-hour, six-day week for the equivalent of 65 cents an hour, of which they take home 52 cents, he added.

Microsoft said it was aware of the NLC report and had launched an investigation. "Microsoft is committed to the fair treatment and safety of workers employed by our vendors," the company said in a statement. "Microsoft has invested heavily in a vendor accountability program and robust independent third-party auditing program to ensure conformance to the Microsoft Vendor Code of Conduct."

For more on this story, read from ZDNet UK.

Topics: Hardware, Microsoft

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Welcome to communism. Sheesh this is the same story as yesterday

    What did you expect from the Chicom's?
    Johnny Vegas
  • RE: Microsoft supplier criticized for 'prison-like' factory

    Microsoft should hardly be surprised at the atrocious
    manner in which China treats its workers. Didn't they
    know that part of the reason they could buy supplies
    so cheaply from China is the low wages and cruel
    working conditions? Sending or appointing
    investigators is a sham. The factory will have plenty
    of time to "clean things up" before the site visit,
    and workers will be too intimidated to corroborate the
    charges. Microsoft and other corporations need to
    consider human rights issues IN ADVANCE, not after
    foreseeable problems have developed.
  • RE: Microsoft supplier criticized for 'prison-like' factory

    Certainly no bias here citing MS in the lead line. I'm sure that HP is not the only other company which could be cited as well. Hey, what ever rag you wear on your back could as easily be produced in a Chinese textile plant. That cheap pair of slippers, refridgerator, TV, ...

    Just another cheap undeserved shot, imo.
  • RE: Microsoft supplier criticized for 'prison-like' factory

    What's a gallon of milk cost there? If its 3 dollars, ok, you have a problem. If is 15 cents, welcome to the 1911 USA.
    • Exactly!

      Granted, they don't drink milk that much, so say how much is a gallon (they don't measure with gallon either, but hey let's not get too technical) of soy milk? 15c are not far off the mark. You think they are working in a "prison like condition"? Have you seen the living conditions of hippies that didn't shower for weeks or months? Don't judge other people with your own standards. You can guarantee they are always wrong. In lunatics' eyes, they are normal and we are the crazy ones.
      Chinese work hard so if they are willing to work 80 hours a week, who are we to say they can't? And don't blame communism - everything China must be slain with the C attached. This has nothing to do with the politics. On the opposite, when they were practicing communist economic rules - state owned enterprises, no free market and everything is controlled by the central/local governments - you didn't get reports on bad working conditions, just low wages across the board. With capitalism, people do whatever they want, work smarter if they can or work harder if they can't. If your coworker willingly works 70 hours a week to make a few extra bucks, are you going to blame the "prison like condition" of the company or even the US government? Get real.
      Welcome to the real world where people are still willing to work hard for what they get, especially when you are one in 1.3b population.
  • I await the cries...

    For HP and Microsoft to exit China, or be punished somehow for supporting such corrupt and inhumane practices.
    • They're too busy hyping up how great 'globalism' and 'free market' to help


      ("them", in the propaganda, meaning the workers. In reality, "them" means Microsoft, HP, and the rest at the top.)
    • LOL

      To back your statement up, you must be raising your hand to be willing to pay $2,000 for a PC first. The only place you'll hear those cries would be in your dreams.
      Did Google really exit China on moral grounds? Let's get real. It's a financial decision. They suddently realized that by bending their rules, they didn't get expected return from Chinese market, so they took the high road.
      Also since Chinese own a lot of foreign companies, forget about "exiting" bluff. Have you heard of Lenovo? Yes, it used to be known as IBM; and yes Lenovo is a Chinese company.
      Wake up and smell the green tea.
  • Don't let WalMart find out!

    • I think walmart poked their eyes out a long time ago.

      They're blind to the issue.

      Besides, reading up on some media articles, who's telling the truth?
  • Wah.... The world needs ditch diggers too, Danny.

    This is sensationalism at it's best. Having
    lived and worked as a Business Consultant in
    China as a business consultant, I've had the
    "privelege" to go to many factories. Both in
    an official and "unofficial" capacities. Yes,
    there are certain factories that are very
    austere and people do work long hours. Most
    office workers work 6 days a week too. granted
    they make more, but to someone who's lived
    there, that's not all that surprising.

    however, keep in mind that these workers do not
    lack for clothing, housing, or food. These are
    all provided by the factory. Most of these
    folks are from very poor, rural communities and
    the $0.50 to $.60 cents they make is 3-4 x more
    than what they would make working at home on
    the farm. Furthermore, even in factories where
    they work less hours, these workers tend to
    bank all of this money and send it home.

    There are no "unions" there, hence no sense of
    entitlement for time off, etc. Some factory
    workers get almost 2 months off for Spring
    Festival (Chinese New Year) anyway.

    Getting fined for infractions? GOOD! I've
    witnessed first hand the poor QC in Chinese
    factories. In order for many of these
    factories to prevent their workers from cutting
    corners, the only solution is to fine them. A
    fine for losing a finger? If he wasn't
    following procedure- which is de riguer in
    China- then so be it. You ever see a guy
    welding with just his hand as a shield. While
    his welding helmet sits 3 feet away? Happens
    all the time over there. "Regulations?
    Policies? Doesn't apply to me." "Mei gaun
    xi..." is something you hear all the time.
    translated, it means, "meh... it doesn't
    matter". I hope that worker learned his

    Using $ figures to sensationalize the
    "plight" of these workers is something that
    I've always frowned upon. If they are truly
    working in appalling and dangerous conditions,
    like the coal mines, brick makers, etc., then
    yes, by all means, raise a stink.

    But other than that, this article is pure
    sensationalism. You want cheap products? The
    hard reality of the situation is this: the cost
    savings has to come some where.

    If you haven't read the book "A Year without
    China". I encourage you to do so. If you
    really don't agree with what's going on here,
    don't just run your mouth, or your keyboard, as
    it were. Put your money where your mouth is
    and pay more for products made in the US
    and Europe. Don't bother using or buying
    anything made in Asia, Africa, or South
    America, either.
    • Much babble, little content.

      You talk like someone who lets their pet sleep in a doghouse to prevent freezing to death. We are talking about human beings here.
    • Well said and balanced opinion!

      The only thing I'd like to add is referring to your last paragraph. It's a good call. But if someone were to do that, that person would be naked with only a radio produced in USA in 1950s for entertainment.
  • Apple did it a LOT WORSE!

    Well, I saw the photos, I can say is totally sad, I feel sorry for those childrens there, but Apple also did this crap and IS even worse!
    • Apple? Microsoft?

      How does Apple or Microsoft gets blamed for what a Chinese company does? I don't think anyone was actually blaming MS for this so you MS trolls can put up your defense weapons and relax.

      However, our large companies that do business with manufactures in China or other "Free Trade Zones" do, in some way, encourage this by seeking only to increase their bottom line at "any cost" to others. But the ultimate responsibility should be the Chinese company in question, not MS or any other business.
      • True... however

        The Chinese company in question is most definitely ultimately responsible, however, we - as the people who purchase these products from China - cannot absolve ourselves of our own responsibility to make educated purchases. In the end, it's our purchases that fund this cruelty. Pretending like it's 100% the fault of some distant corporation only serves to perpetuate the problem.
        • I Agree... but

          I am only a consumer. I buy what is there to buy. I don't manufacture things, etc. Therefore, for me to personally say that "I" am responsible for the activities of MS's (or any other company) business arrangements that may be unethical is something I will not do.

          I will, however, place some blame on our Government for encouraging these types of activities by way of so-called "Trade Agreements", tax incentives for out-sourcing and and tariff breaks; I will place blame on American Corporations for encouraging this too by not caring about nothing but their bottom line, as I have previously stated.

          But to blame the consumer for what is going a bit too far. After all our country is ran by Monopolies, though sometimes its three or four major companies that control a particular industry, the point is still the same. We only buy what is made available for us to buy.

          Think about it...
          • Bottom line is M$ employs slave labor

            ..outsourced directly or indirectly. Either overseas or through H1-B here at home.

            Another sleazy cap from Redmond and their apologists.

            Look who comes in third...


            ubiquitous one
          • I'm not defending MS but....

            come on! 3,117 jobs! We have millions out out of work and we are jumping on MS for a few thousand jobs? I'm no MS "apologist". In fact, I don't even like the MS brand.

            I'm a Linux man, myself. And my intentions are not to absolve MS of any wrongdoing or unethical practices. But come on.... Lets be real. This is not MS's problem alone. IBM, Oracle, Intel and Motorola was also on that list.

            With that being said, I stand by my original comment.
          • But who's number 3?

            Right behind the two biggest Indian outsourcing supply firms.

            Just remember that the next time one of the M$ shills comes on here waving the American flag about what a great "American" company Micro$oft is.

            Don't let them off the hook. They know better.
            ubiquitous one