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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

April 15, 2010 at 12:22 PM

Microsoft sends team to allegedly harsh Chinese factory

To investigate allegations of harsh working conditions at a vendor’s factory in China, Microsoft dispatched a team of independent auditors to investigate first-hand.

Pittsburgh-based National Labor Committee alleged sweatshop-like conditions at the KYE factory in a report issued Tuesday.

Microsoft’s response was disclosed in a 2 a.m. blog post by Brian Tobey, vice president of manufacturing and operations in the entertainment and devices group.

An excerpt:

As a result of this report, we have a team of independent auditors en route to the facility to conduct a complete and thorough investigation. If we find that the factory is not adhering to our standards, we will take appropriate action.

Tobey also said an auditor has been inspecting the factory annually and Microsoft personnel do quarterly on-site assessments and get weekly reports from the vendor, KYE, on labor and safety issues. It’s also been requiring documentation and verification of workers’ ages for two years “and no incidence of child labor has been detected.”

If the report is overblown, perhaps the response will at least keep the vendors toeing the line.

Microsoft’s hardware business accounts for about 30 percent of the output of the factory in question, which also makes products for companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Best Buy, Asus, Samsung, Logitech and Foxconn (which does work for Apple).

Here’s a BusinessWeek story that examined working conditions at Chinese factories in 2006 and a 2007 Salt Lake Tribune investigation of Chinese worker safety at some truly scary factories.

Comments | Topics: Asia, china, Gadgets & products

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