Microsoft Employees Show Solidarity With Chinese Tech Workers Over ‘996’ Working Standard

Solidarity to their compatriot tech workers in China was expressed by employees of Microsoft through a letter that they got published on the software development platform Github.

Workers of tech companies in the United States have made use of this platform, owned by Microsoft, for expressing their views and lodging complaints about the grueling working conditions in tech companies in China and the “996” standard that is followed in the industry. ‘996’ is a working philosophy that has been supported widely by the owner of Chinese tech giant Alibaba – billionaire Jack Ma. The numbers represent hour working hours from 9AM to 9PM and for 6 days a week – especially in the tech companies.

A call to the Chinese tech companies to adhere to the local labor laws was given in the letter by the Microsoft workers. Local Chinese labor laws mandate a maximum of 40 hours of work in a week with an additional maximum of 36 hours of overtime every month.

“These same issues permeate across full-time and contingent jobs at Microsoft and the industry as a whole,” the workers said.

The repository hosting the material is called 996.icu, a reference to a comment from one poster that said such a schedule could land workers in the intensive care unit. The users of the platform have drawn up a list of more than 150 companies in China that, according to the users, force its tech workers to work under and follow the inhumane working conditions. That list included names of global Chinese companies such as Huawei, Bytedance (the developers of the app TikTok), and Ant Financial – the company associated with Alibaba. It quickly became one of the fastest-growing GitHub repositories in the service’s history, being starred more than 200,000 times.

Access to the material on their browsers has been restricted by Tencent and Alibaba, both mentioned in the list, even as the repository has gained popularity the world over.

A call on Microsoft and Github to keep the forum “uncensored and available to everyone”, was given by Microsoft workers in the letter.

“History tells us that multinational companies will pit workers against each other in a race to the bottom as they outsource jobs and take advantage of weak labor standards in the pursuit of profit,” the letter said. “We have to come together across national boundaries to ensure just working conditions for everyone around the globe.” It added.

Initially, the letter from Microsoft employees had 30 signatures and other workers of the company were requested to contact the signed persons so that they could add their names to the list of signatories

This letter is seen at the latest internal tech protest. Last February, 50 employees of Microsoft published a letter, signed by 50 of its employees, which protested against the company’s decision of accepting a contract from the US army worth $480m under which the company were to provide the US army with augmented reality headsets.

There were mass resignations in Google in November 2018 over the revelation of a former executive, accused and forced to quit over sexual harassment charges, was given a $90m severance package.

(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)

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