Microsoft has launched a probe into allegations of labour law breaches at a Chinese partner's manufacturing facility, but denied claims of using child labour.
The company said it had sent a team of independent auditors to investigate allegations of hostile working conditions at the facility, operated by KYE Systems, the WSJ said.
The majority of equipment manufactured there – including mouses, cameras and other devices – is on Microsoft's behalf.
Microsoft said it had inspected the facility twice in the past two years and hadn't found any evidence of child labour.
While the report, published by the National Labour Committee (NLC), acknowledged that the factory probably currently doesn't employ children younger than 16, it added that “[i]n 2007 and 2008, when production at the KYE factory was booming, it appears that some 14 and 15 year olds may have been illegally recruited from junior middle schools.
“We have no way to document this, but in reviewing dozens of pictures smuggled out of the factory, there do appear to be child workers,” the report states.
Conditions for the 16 and 17 year old “work study students” the factory does admit to employing are intolerable, according to the report. KYE recruits up to 1,000 of these students, who work 15-hour shifts six or seven days a week.
These hours are illegal under Chinese law, which classifies 16-17 year olds as non-adult workers, setting a limit of eight hours work per day.
Microsoft told the WSJ worker overtime had been significantly reduced at the factory, and that payments of 65 cents per hour were in line with labour standards for the area.
On its company website, KYE maintains it is fully compliant with Chinese labour laws.