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Microsoft's China suppliers get 2 weeks to end illegal practices

The Economic Times  |  April 17, 2010  |  Share  |  Source article

BEIJING: Two Chinese production units contracted by global giant Microsoft have been found guilty of violating labour laws and have been given a week to rectify their "illegal practices".

The companies have been accused of illegal and inhuman working conditions and if they do not change their work practices to comply with the law, they will face administrative penalties, state-run China Daily quoted authorities as saying.

The investigation was launched by the Dongguan human resources bureau, following a report from the US-based non- profit organisation National Labor Committee (NLC).

Their report, released early this week detailed long working hours, low pay, insufficient food and few freedoms for young labourers at the KYE Systems Corporation factory in Dongguan, South China's Guangdong province.

Taiwan-based KYE assembles and packages hardware products for Microsoft and other companies.

Included in the report are claims that 16 and 17-year-olds work 15-hour shifts for about 50 cents an hour.

They are prohibited from talking or using the bathroom during work hours, and sleep crammed in 14-person dorm rooms.

They are only allowed to leave the factory grounds at certain times.

KYE owns two factories in Dongguan - Kunying Computer Products Company and Xieying Computer Products Company - which employ nearly 4,000 workers, according to Friday's report from the Dongguan human resources bureau, the local labor administration authority.

"We have not found evidence proving the two factories have employed any child labourer younger than 16, but the companies do have some illegal labor practices," said Xie Yanfang, an official from the bureau said.

The country's laws prohibit employers from hiring "child labourers" or workers younger than 16.

But it allows the employment of "underage workers" - workers aged 16 to 18 - only if the employers register the practice with the local labour administration authority, she said.

The investigation found the two factories have employed 385 underage workers from secondary schools at Sichuan and Guizhou provinces.

Among them, 326 have not been registered with the local labor administration authority.

The factories' management failed to give employees a copy of their labour contract, and also forced them to work overtime.

Workers on the production line were forced to work an average of 280 hours in March, much more than the typical 160 hours per month worked by those with 40-hour weeks.

The workers did, however, receive salary and overtime pay, and their pay has reached the minimum wage standard of the city.

"The factories have been ordered to rectify these illegal practices within a week, or they will be fined or face other administrative penalties in accordance with the law," Xie said.

"We'll closely follow the factories' rectification to safeguard the lawful rights of workers," she said.

"The US organisation must have some misunderstanding about the factories. Most of the accusations made by NLC do not exist in the factories, which run according to laws and regulations," said Chen Hongqin, a standing member of the Taiwan Business Association in Dongguan.

"The NLC's report is pure slander," Li Jiongliang, general manager of Kunying, was quoted by Southern Metropolis Daily on Friday.

The report said the US unemployed population has reached 22 million, while Microsoft still offers many working opportunities to Chinese workers.

"The report must have something to do with the Sino-American trade friction," he said. 

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