Two companies owned by a Microsoft partner that manufactures computer mouse and web camera products for the software giant were cited this week by Chinese authorities for labor violations. Microsoft is currently investigating reports that factories run by these companies engage in slave-like child labor, denying workers basic services such as work breaks, decent living conditions, and competitive wages.
The companies, Kunying Computer Products and Xieying Computer Products, are owned by KYE Systems Corporation. They were found by China's Dongguan Municipal Human Resources Bureau to have forced children—people under 18 years of age—to work longer hours than are permitted by Chinese law. (China does allow 16-to-18 year olds to work under restricted conditions.)
This finding corroborates the National Labor Committee report that touched off this episode. According to the committee, KYE required 16 and 17 year olds to work 15 hour days, six to seven days a week. They are paid less than $1 an hour and sleep in cramped dorm rooms. Many workers are there illegally, and some are apparently as young as 14 years old.
KYE says the NLC report is "exaggerated" and that its child laborers are "allowed to be employed according to the local labor law." But Dongguan says that KYE failed to report 326 works under the age of 18 and that the work shifts at the factories were far longer than allowed by law: 280 hours each in March, compared to the 196 hour maximum.
For its part, Microsoft says that there have been regular audits to ensure that its partners adhere to unnamed standards, a common practice for the many US-based companies that utilize cheap Chinese labor. But these audits "are flawed or compromised," according to a report in The New York Times.