Microsoft employees have voiced their concern about Chinese tech firms’ 996 working standard. A GitHub letter signed by 100 people affirms their solidarity with the 996.ICU counter movement, while speaking of the dangers of censorship.
“In response to these events, we, the workers of Microsoft and GitHub, support the 996.ICU movement and stand in solidarity with tech workers in China. We know this is a problem that crosses national borders,” reads the letter. “These same issues permeate across full time and contingent jobs at Microsoft and the industry as a whole[…]We have to come together across national boundaries to ensure just working conditions for everyone around the globe.”
The 996.ICU movement is a GitHub repository, with ICU referencing a popular Chinese saying: “Work by ‘996’, sick in ICU”. 9-9-6 is an unofficial work schedule in the country’s tech industry that means 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week.
The grueling schedule can cause workers to neglect their physical and mental health, get sick, or ruin family relationships. More positively, though, the repository gathers a list of 955 companies with a strong work-life balance.
It also contains a manual for workers looking to legally challenge their conditions and a space for supporting literature. Most critically, developers are contributing software under the 996 license, which refuses to provide it to companies that are anti-labor law.
Unfortunately, and perhaps expectedly, the project has seen some backlash. The repository is blocked on domestic browsers from Tencent and Alibaba.
“We must entertain the possibility that Microsoft and GitHub will be pressured to remove the repository as well,” said the employees. “We encourage Microsoft and GitHub to keep the 996.ICU GitHub repository uncensored and available to everyone.”
The letter is signed by three Microsoft program managers and others in positions of authority. Employees from various other tech companies, including Facebook, Google, Baidu, Trend Micro, and more.
The letter is part of the larger 996 ICU repository, which is one of the fastest growing in the site’s history. Currently, it sits at 232,358 stars after its creation in late March. Despite the employees’ commit, Microsoft is yet to publically speak about the working standard.