A group of Microsoft employees are speaking out to support an online protest in China over grueling, 12-hour workdays that organizers say are unhealthy, illegal and increasingly common.
About 20 Microsoft employees signed an open letter published on Monday in support of the so-called 996.ICU project in China.
Tech workers in China started the 996.ICU project in March on code-sharing website GitHub, which is owned by Microsoft. The numbers 996 refer to the concept of working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week.
Such hours, the workers say, are illegal in China even though they say many employers in the country expect it of their workers. The name 996.ICU refers to an ironic saying among Chinese workers: “工作 996,生病 ICU” or “Work by ‘996’, sick in ICU,” as in the intensive care unit of a hospital.
The 996.ICU project is a repository of what is allegedly evidence of these working conditions, as well as a new software license designed to advocate for workers’ rights. More specifically, any software project created under the terms of this license cannot be used by companies that break labor laws, per the language contained therein.
Monday’s letter was signed by 50 tech