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Your Keyboards May Have Been Made In Appalling Conditions

Gizmodo  |  February 10, 2009  |  Share  |  Source article

Feburary 10, 2009

By Jason Chen 


I don't mean to get super human-rights on everyone, but if you're using a keyboard from Microsoft, IBM, Dell, Lenovo or HP, there's a chance it was made under some horrific working conditions.

A study by The National Labor Committee, which is a worker's rights group that actually is not associate with the government, found very crazy (and very cruel) working conditions in a Meitai factory in Dongguan City. Here's a very small subsection of cruelties employees were subjected to:

" Workers are prohibited from talking, listening to music, raising their heads, putting their hands in their pockets. Workers are fined for being one minute late, for not trimming their fingernails-which could impede the work, and for stepping on the grass. Workers are searched on the way in and out of the factory. Workers who hand out flyers or discuss factory conditions with outsiders are fired.

" The assembly line never stops, and workers needing to use the bathroom must learn to hold it until there is a break.

" All overtime is mandatory, with 12-hour shifts seven days a week and an average of two days off a month. A worker daring to take a Sunday off-which is supposedly their weekly holiday-will be docked 2 ½ days' wages. Including unpaid overtime, workers are at the factory up to 87 hours a week. On average, they are at the factory 81 hours a week, while toiling 74 hours, including 34 hours of overtime, which exceeds China's legal limit by 318 percent!

" The workers are paid a base wage of 64 cents an hour, which does not even come close to meeting subsistence level needs. After deductions for primitive room and board, the workers' take-home wage drops to just 41 cents an hour. A worker toiling 75 hours a week will earn a take-home wage of $57.19, or 76 cents an hour including overtime and bonuses. The workers are routinely cheated of 14 to 19 percent of the wages legally due them.

Workers are also routinely penalized for random things, including these, which BoingBoing highlighted:

    * "Infractions" punished with the loss of over two hours' wages (fine of 10 RMB—$1.44), including for-
    —"Being 1 to 5 minutes late to start a shift""
    —"Not periodically trimming fingernails, which will affect product quality."
    —"Not lining up correctly while punching time cards or at the cafeteria."
    —"Wearing work shoes outside the work room after work."
    —"Putting hands in pant pockets while inside the factory or workroom."

    * "Infractions" punished with the loss of 4 ½ hours wages (20 RMB fine, $2.88)
    —""answering a personal telephone call in the workroom."
    —"Not diligently working or raising ones head to look around when guests or cadres come to visit."
    —"Putting personal objects on the work desk."
    —""listening to the radio while on the job."
    —"Not parking bicycles according to company regulations; riding bicycles in and out of the company in a way not in accordance with company regulations."
    —"Returning to the dorm after regulated hours [curfew]."

    * "Infractions" punished with the loss of nearly seven hours' wages (30 RMB fine—$4.32)
    —"Switching beds without authorization." (Dorm beds are assigned by management.)

    * "Infractions" punished with the loss of nearly 1 ½ days' wages (50 RMB fine—$7.20)
    —"Workers who arrive over one hour late""
    —"Riding the elevator without permission."
    —"Plugging in electronics [using electricity] in the dorm room for personal use."
    —"Using the company phone to make personal calls."
    —"Producing products of low quality""
    —"Workers who"go to visit other workers during working hours."
    —"Chatting at the workstation during work hours""
    —"Entering or leaving the factory area without allowing door personnel [security guards] to inspect [search workers]."
    —"Treating supervisors with an arrogant attitude""

    * "Infractions" punished with the loss of nearly three days' wages (100 RMB fine—$14.40):
    —"Leaving one's workstation without permission""
    —"Putting up personal notices"or handing out flyers."
    —"Revealing confidential company or production-related information."

    * "Infractions" punished with firing:
    —"Violating labor discipline"and not obeying the company's work arrangements."
    —""Taking part in illegal organizations." [In China, this means independent unions; human, women's and children's rights organizations and non-state-sanctioned religious organizations.]
    —"Not following the procedures spelled out by government regulations on stopping work, slowing work down, encouraging others to stop or slow down work."
    —"Missing three days of work."
    —"Disobeying China's one-child policy."
    —"Not obeying company arrangements or directions or"collectively causing trouble as a group""
    —"Any behavior similar to that listed above or helping or colluding in such behavior."

If you think these conditions are obscene—and I think most of us should—contact details for the companies that contract Meitai for manufacturing are located at the bottom of the link.


Meitai Factory report

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