Technology Factory Sweatshops Face Scrutiny In China

After the U.S.-based National Labor Committee published a report critical of technology companies' operations in China, the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition says it will now conduct an investigation.

The NLC's latest report claims that many companies such as IBM and Dell are purchasing keyboard components from Meitai, a Chinese company that reportedly runs sweatshop-like conditions in its factories. Workers of Meitai are reportedly asked to sit on a hardwood stools to work for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and they are only given a two-day leave each month. NLC claims the workers are forced to work overtime and asked not to look up, or put hands in their pockets, or talk with each other or listen to music when working and they are required to install a key on each keyboard every 1.1 second. The workers are also asked to supervise each other during their daily work.

NLC's report says that if a worker breaks Meitai's rule, he or she will be punished. The workers are apparently locked in the factory for four days a week and asked to live in a crowded dormitory. Though they are promised to get a payment of CNY4.37 each hour, they actually receive about CNY2.8 for each hour's work, which is lower than what is necessary for the local living standard.

Lenovo has already commented publicly and said it has never purchased any products directly from Meitai, but it says it will ask its suppliers to probe into the issue. HP says it will wait for EICC's investigation results and take corresponding measures then. It also claims that Meitai is not its direct supplier.

IBM, Microsoft, Dell, Lenovo and HP are all members of EICC, a self-governing organization of the technology sector in the U.S. that aims for better corporate social responsibility among its members.

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