[Long Discussion] Is Riot Using Player Money to Run a Sweatshop in The Philippines?

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Eserine

Senior Member

12-04-2012

Quote:
***A later post in this thread (currently final) relates answers these questions from the support team via a support ticket, this thread is now ended.***
TL;DR: Unfortunately it's hard to say.

First there was this thread:
http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/....php?t=2842533

and then as a response there was this thread.
http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/....php?t=2843062

The second thread might appear rather disturbing to those who have read through the first thread because the facts being presented by Riot employees seem to contain a lot of positive spin for the purpose of Public Relations in terms of containment of player opinion.

[Excerpt]
Quote:
Originally Posted by CaptSturm View Post
...
To be clear, we have not fired a single Player Support Rioter in relation to outsourcing. Absolutely zero.

We’ve been using outsourcers for a couple of years now. Recently, we have been using more than a single outsourcer, including our group in the Philippines. Why do we use outsourcing? To provide the best service we can to our players.
...
The phrase "we have not fired a single Player Support Rioter in relation to outsourcing. Absolutely zero." while technically true, skirts the issue of the first thread in the first post of Riot's response and continues on to be peppered with suspicious catch-phrases and incredibly vague reassuring sentiments. Lomar enters the thread later to " share some of the tactics involved", which were obviously not shared with Sturm's initial response post in respect to the contractors working in Austin, Texas- but Lomar is no more clear than Sturm was-

Throughout all of Riot's careful responses players are not told why Player Support is being outsourced to The Philippines (the closest is Lomar writing: "This is a necessary step for us in order to ensure the success of some awesome initiatives our players will see in the coming year.") and players are given no specific example of why the contractors in Austin were dismissed or found to 'not be of the necessary quality', although we are given some general parameters:

[Excerpt]
Quote:
Originally Posted by CaptSturm View Post
While it's true that we've wound down one of our business partnerships, I’d like to clear up a misconception about why we did it. Our support operation in the Philippines isn’t based on some kind of financial reasoning – it’s based on a commitment to quality. We evaluated all of our outsourcing groups side by side. The group we selected was demonstrating consistently higher PSAT% (Player SATisfaction), and provided us with 24/7 coverage. One key metric is that our 24 hour response rates went from 65% earlier this year to 90% today (our target is 100% but we are on our way).
Here is a key question: Why were contractors in the Philippines able to provide 24/7 coverage and higher player satisfaction levels than contractors working in Austin, Texas?

http://www.nosweat.org.uk/node/556

You should check out the above link, I worry that the answer is that corrupt Filipino law allows for greater “labor flexibilization” than any U.S. company could legally mandate for workers, including the practice of feeding workers prescription drugs to keep going. While Sturm suggested that their decision "wasn't about money", it is easy to imagine players giving high ratings to a system that money can't buy, QA responses being instantaneously answered at any hour of the day or night by an impoverished population of Filipinos slowly being tortured to death through poor and abusive work conditions.

Some critics might point out that the page I linked to was from 2007, well here is a story from 2011:

[Excerpt]
Quote:
Factories in three countries – the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka – were surveyed, and not one of them paid a living wage to their combined 100,000-strong workforce. Many of them didn't even pay the legal minimum wage. What the report also makes clear is that this is a gender issue: 76% of the surveyed workforce are women. Globalised supply chains exploit predominantly female labour. It's an irony that probably escapes most of the women who do the bulk of high street shopping in the west. Women shopping for products made by other, underpaid, exploited, women.

What's more, things seem to be getting worse, rather than better. Employment is becoming more precarious as more workers are put on to temporary contracts, day labour, on call rather than with permanent jobs. That enables employers to dodge holiday pay, sick pay and written contracts. Employers also imposed compulsory overtime, lower wages and higher production targets on workers on these short-term contracts
Things seemed to be getting worse, rather than better in 2011? Here is another article from 2012 directly referencing contracting abuses and the perception that the Philippines labor sector acts as a sweatshop for the world:

[Excerpt]
Quote:
MANILA, Philippines - The government is stepping up measures against abusive contracting and subcontracting labor practices to prevent the country from becoming a “global sweatshop” where economic growth lies against a backdrop of cheap labor.

At least 1 million Filipino workers are currently employed under contracting and subcontracting system, according to the Philippine Association of Local Service Contractors (Palscon) but Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz gave a lower figure of 200,000 workers in the contracting and subcontracting scheme.

She said economic growth “is about race to the top and not race to the bottom” as she reminded employers that business growth “cannot be obtained by circumventing workers’ rights to decent salary and security of tenure.

“The country’s economic growth lies against the backdrop of [a successful] service contracting industry and we insist on employers or contractors to comply as we don’t want to hear that the Philippines is labeled as a global sweatshop, instead, a global competitive factory,” said Baldoz in her keynote address at the Palscon 2nd National Forum held on Thursday at the Manila Hotel.

Baldoz warned that the labor department is currently reviewing the list of registered service contracting and subcontracting companies to determine their compliance to the new rules.

She said the government’s political will is crucial to implement reforms in the service contracting industry, saying the Department of Labor and Employment is currently investigating alleged violations of labor contracting rules by a large manufacturing conglomerate in the National Capital Region. Baldoz, however, refused to name the company that has allegedly been engaged in repeated five-month hiring system, also known as 5-5-5.

Baldoz said service contracting labor system is now a major driver of economic growth in the Philippines with the increasing number of companies engaging in contracting and subcontracting labor.

However, she raised concern over the rising number of workers being abused by their employers, prompting the DOLE to ban the practice of hiring employees repeatedly for a five-month period.
Naturally "Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz" wants to put the situation into the best light possible since she has a vested interest in not making her administration look impotent in the light of continuous international criticism, but the "strong government will" she discusses can and will be easily superseded by the same mechanisms that allowed all the previous abuses to take place, especially by wealthy multimillion dollar companies like Riot Games. Critical inspection in developing countries is not as critical as in the developed world in regard to: "The country’s economic growth lies against the backdrop of [a successful] service contracting industry"

Has Riot offered any sort of guarantee that the contractors that they have chosen to use in The Philippines won't engage in abusive practices?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RiotGicer View Post
Greeting Summoners!

I’m Lee Saggers, and I’m our Special Projects Producer here at Riot Games for Player Support.

One big change that we in Player Support are very happy about, is our new partners offices are very much of the same standard and working conditions that we have in our Riot offices. Something we were not able to enforce previously and feel very passionate about.

Player Support has always stood to champion the call of our players here within Riot and we will never steer away from that goal. With that in mind, we would never implement a solution to an issue that we felt was sub-standard or just accept something because “that’s just how it is” which is why we have taken the steps we have.

Many of your comments here so far seem to be based on quality, and we will work tirelessly on improving that service across every office we have, because we don’t want to be one of the best support services out there, we want to be THE best.
"very much of the same standard and working conditions that we have in our Riot offices" is quite a disturbing twist of phrase, and again it seems like positive spin. They do not have the same standards and working conditions Riot has in their offices, but very much of the same. I could say "a mouse has very much of the same standard and working conditions as a blue whale" and technically I would be telling the truth because both are types of mammal of course, but what have I said of the giant differences between the two? The statement is so broad it is not really saying anything, and indeed any organism could be said to have very much of the same standard and working conditions as a mouse. Do the contractors Riot pays in The Philippines also have TABLES and CHAIRS and a CEILING and COMPUTERS TO USE TO ANSWER PLAYER QUESTIONS? In that case both Riot and their contractors have very much of the same standard and working conditions all other differences aside! The players are offered no specifics about the standards Riot means, or how (or if) Riot has any plan to enforce such standards beyond simply calling up their contractors in The Philippines from time to time and saying:

RIOT: "Hai, don't be doing sweatshop stuff!"
SWEATSHOP BOSS: "Yup, we definitely are not a sweatshop!"
RIOT: "W00T!"

When Gicer wrote
Quote:
Originally Posted by RiotGicer View Post
Player Support has always stood to champion the call of our players here within Riot and we will never steer away from that goal. With that in mind, we would never implement a solution to an issue that we felt was sub-standard or just accept something because “that’s just how it is” which is why we have taken the steps we have.
it is a bit chilling to think that he may have meant not accepting "that's just how it is" in terms of labor laws or basic human rights protections.

Further anticipating criticism from other players on the forum

1. Aren't people in the videogame industry expected to work insanely long, unreasonable hours to create their products anyway?

So you have testimonials like this from Riot employees:

Quote:
Originally Posted by gypsylord View Post
It's not hard (I love my job), but the hours are pretty freaking long. I choose my own schedule but I always find myself working late into the night to get that new cool idea for an ability implemented. Heh, it's 8 and I'm still in the office talking to you guys .
Quote:
Originally Posted by gypsylord View Post
All I can really say is that she's a looooooong way off. Been working weekends to make her as awesome as humanely possible.
but you also have testimonials like this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by gypsylord View Post
I love Riot. I'm probably the happiest I've been in the last 4 years. LoL is fun, my work is engaging, and I'm surrounded by brilliant people who share my interests. Plus, I get to interact with you guys and make cool stuff for the game we all like. I'm really into helping people and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy knowing that one day I will have a champ in the game that creates fun for millions of people (hopefully).
Answering angry e-mails from raging players with form scripts for dozens of hours a day is not fun or engaging, there is little possibility of advancement or fame from your work and when asked about how good your salary is you are not likely to answer with a smiley face as gypsylord does. Player Support workers in The Philippines are often driven to the task out of the pressures of poverty, not out of the love of games or an upbringing surrounded by games as the developers are, so expecting them to work similar hours for magnitudes less compensation out of the misfortune they have had in being born in a certain country does not ethically translate from one example to the other.

2. Isn't it great if Riot runs a sweatshop in The Philippines to give work to those who would otherwise starve to death?

No. Working people to death (which can happen because sitting for long periods can cause permanent heart problems, muscle degeneration, and blood clots that lead to strokes) or permanently psychologically scarring them through the constant application of psychological pressure and stress can often be a fate worse than death, people in sweatshops are given less than most animals or pets are in the developed world, it prevents workers from finding better employment in a new way, and putting people through such constant torture is something no player should want to support with one's money.

3. What about the player who posted in the response thread claiming to be from the Philippines and who felt optimistic about their commitment to work standards?

The workers at overseas Nike and Apple factories once felt optimistic about their promised working conditions as well, as did the customers of these companies assuming that the brands they loved and trusted "would never be capable of such things"

4. Beyond casting such severe allegations with so little evidence, what do you expect players to do about this?

In creating this thread I do not mean to say that Riot is definitely running a sweatshop in The Philippines, I merely wish to point out that with the current amount of information given to players by representatives of the company a definite possibility of abuse exists given the wider operational history of contracting in The Philippines and ambiguously-worded posts by Riot. The first player on the response thread even noted it was odd how quickly and comprehensively Riot suddenly took interest in a player announcing that Riot had ended its Austin contract, and as Shakespeare once wrote "The lady doth protest too much, methinks"...

There is a number of possible actions players can take on this issue:
> You can bump this thread and vote it up if you share these concerns
> You can ask members of Riot about this if you see them on the forums
> You can shoot an e-mail to the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights [contact information at the bottom of the site] and ask them to investigate Riot's Filipino contracting on behalf of the players during next ten years
> You can send a quick e-mail with questions to Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz in The Philippines about Riot's contracting practices and whether "24/7 player coverage" might potentially spell out worker abuse
> You can Google words like "sweatshop" together with "Philippines", etc. to do research and learn more about conditions in The Philippines, to develop the same "passion" Riot purports to have on the subject

Notes:

- This thread has been copied into a text document for reproduction on the forums if it is deleted or account-banned by forum moderators.
- This thread has been referenced in the thread @Tryndamere @Ryze @Morello Final Pre-season Feedback, add your feedback too!
- Thank you for your time


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YueTsukasa

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Senior Member

12-04-2012

what company from the philippines?


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Africa

Senior Member

12-04-2012

Wow nothing gets past detective eserine


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Morisanzo

Senior Member

12-04-2012

Okay. While all of that is well in good, why not turn your attention to a company that is actually doing this in a documented format that get's frequently ignored to do brand recognition

like say...

I don't know...

Apple and their child labor and outsourcing to use bottom dollar labor.

But yeah no let's go with one of the most open companies out there that just happens to have a measure of outsourcing to another country for what is basically a call center, it's not like they don't have a grossly large playerbase, not to mention dear god they might actually be GASP trying to make all their employees lives better.

Wooooo witch hunts!


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Shmanka

Senior Member

12-04-2012

Can of worms has now been opened.


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MissButtahNips

Member

12-04-2012

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eserine View Post
TL;DR: Unfortunately it's hard to say.

First there was this thread:
http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/....php?t=2842533

and then as a response there was this thread.
http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/....php?t=2843062

The second thread might appear rather disturbing to those who have read through the first thread because the facts being presented by Riot employees seem to contain a lot of positive spin for the purpose of Public Relations in terms of containment of player opinion.

[Excerpt]


The phrase "we have not fired a single Player Support Rioter in relation to outsourcing. Absolutely zero." while technically true, skirts the issue of the first thread in the first post of Riot's response and continues on to be peppered with suspicious catch-phrases and incredibly vague reassuring sentiments. Lomar enters the thread later to " share some of the tactics involved", which were obviously not shared with Sturm's initial response post in respect to the contractors working in Austin, Texas- but Lomar is no more clear than Sturm was-

Throughout all of Riot's careful responses players are not told why Player Support is being outsourced to The Philippines (the closest is Lomar writing: "This is a necessary step for us in order to ensure the success of some awesome initiatives our players will see in the coming year.") and players are given no specific example of why the contractors in Austin were dismissed or found to 'not be of the necessary quality', although we are given some general parameters:

[Excerpt]


Here is a key question: Why were contractors in the Philippines able to provide 24/7 coverage and higher player satisfaction levels than contractors working in Austin, Texas?

http://www.nosweat.org.uk/node/556

You should check out the above link, I worry that the answer is that corrupt Filipino law allows for greater “labor flexibilization” than any U.S. company could legally mandate for workers, including the practice of feeding workers prescription drugs to keep going. While Sturm suggested that their decision "wasn't about money", it is easy to imagine players giving high ratings to a system that money can't buy, QA responses being instantaneously answered at any hour of the day or night by an impoverished population of Filipinos slowly being tortured to death through poor and abusive work conditions.

Some critics might point out that the page I linked to was from 2007, well here is a story from 2011:

[Excerpt]


Things seemed to be getting worse, rather than better in 2011? Here is another article from 2012 directly referencing contracting abuses and the perception that the Philippines labor sector acts as a sweatshop for the world:

[Excerpt]


Naturally "Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz" wants to put the situation into the best light possible since she has a vested interest in not making her administration look impotent in the light of continuous international criticism, but the "strong government will" she discusses can and will be easily superseded by the same mechanisms that allowed all the previous abuses to take place, especially by wealthy multimillion dollar companies like Riot Games. Critical inspection in developing countries is not as critical as in the developed world in regard to: "The country’s economic growth lies against the backdrop of [a successful] service contracting industry"

Has Riot offered any sort of guarantee that the contractors that they have chosen to use in The Philippines won't engage in abusive practices?



"very much of the same standard and working conditions that we have in our Riot offices" is quite a disturbing twist of phrase, and again it seems like positive spin. They do not have the same standards and working conditions Riot has in their offices, but very much of the same. I could say "a mouse has very much of the same standard and working conditions as a blue whale" and technically I would be telling the truth because both are types of mammal of course, but what have I said of the giant differences between the two? The statement is so broad it is not really saying anything, and indeed any organism could be said to have very much of the same standard and working conditions as a mouse. Do the contractors Riot pays in The Philippines also have TABLES and CHAIRS and a CEILING and COMPUTERS TO USE TO ANSWER PLAYER QUESTIONS? In that case both Riot and their contractors have very much of the same standard and working conditions all other differences aside! The players are offered no specifics about the standards Riot means, or how (or if) Riot has any plan to enforce such standards beyond simply calling up their contractors in The Philippines from time to time and saying:

RIOT: "Hai, don't be doing sweatshop stuff!"
SWEATSHOP BOSS: "Yup, we definitely are not a sweatshop!"
RIOT: "W00T!"

When Gicer wrote

it is a bit chilling to think that he may have meant not accepting "that's just how it is" in terms of labor laws or basic human rights protections.

Further anticipating criticism from other players on the forum

1. Aren't people in the videogame industry expected to work insanely long, unreasonable hours to create their products anyway?

So you have testimonials like this from Riot employees:





but you also have testimonials like this:



Answering angry e-mails from raging players with form scripts for dozens of hours a day is not fun or engaging, there is little possibility of advancement or fame from your work and when asked about how good your salary is you are not likely to answer with a smiley face as gypsylord does. Player Support workers in The Philippines are often driven to the task out of the pressures of poverty, not out of the love of games or an upbringing surrounded by games as the developers are, so expecting them to work similar hours for magnitudes less compensation out of the misfortune they have had in being born in a certain country does not ethically translate from one example to the other.

2. Isn't it great if Riot runs a sweatshop in The Philippines to give work to those who would otherwise starve to death?

No. Working people to death (which can happen because sitting for long periods can cause permanent heart problems, muscle degeneration, and blood clots that lead to strokes) or permanently psychologically scarring them through the constant application of psychological pressure and stress can often be a fate worse than death, people in sweatshops are given less than most animals or pets are in the developed world, it prevents workers from finding better employment in a new way, and putting people through such constant torture is something no player should want to support with one's money.

3. What about the player who posted in the response thread claiming to be from the Philippines and who felt optimistic about their commitment to work standards?

The workers at overseas Nike and Apple factories once felt optimistic about their promised working conditions as well, as did the customers of these companies assuming that the brands they loved and trusted "would never be capable of such things"

4. Beyond casting such severe allegations with so little evidence, what do you expect players to do about this?

In creating this thread I do not mean to say that Riot is definitely running a sweatshop in The Philippines, I merely wish to point out that with the current amount of information given to players by representatives of the company a definite possibility of abuse exists given the wider operational history of contracting in The Philippines and ambiguously-worded posts by Riot. The first player on the response thread even noted it was odd how quickly and comprehensively Riot suddenly took interest in a player announcing that Riot had ended its Austin contract, and as Shakespeare once wrote "The lady doth protest too much, methinks"...

There is a number of possible actions players can take on this issue:
> You can bump this thread and vote it up if you share these concerns
> You can ask members of Riot about this if you see them on the forums
> You can shoot an e-mail to the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights [contact information at the bottom of the site] and ask them to investigate Riot's Filipino contracting on behalf of the players during next ten years
> You can send a quick e-mail with questions to Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz in The Philippines about Riot's contracting practices and whether "24/7 player coverage" might potentially spell out worker abuse
> You can Google words like "sweatshop" together with "Philippines", etc. to do research and learn more about conditions in The Philippines, to develop the same "passion" Riot purports to have on the subject

Notes:

- This thread has been copied into a text document for reproduction on the forums if it is deleted or account-banned by forum moderators.
- This thread has been referenced in the thread @Tryndamere @Ryze @Morello Final Pre-season Feedback, add your feedback too!
- Thank you for your time
Why do I care what people in other countries do? I can't stop it, not can I do anything about it. Such a pointless thread.


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Caedarii

Senior Member

12-04-2012

Every point that you made was just a claim based upon conjecture and speculation. Baseless, really.

It's like your saying that what an individual Riot employee has said COULD mean such and such, and yet you have no real facts and data to stand on.

Edit: I just read your other thread. You just never have real evidence for your claims, everything is always practically baseless. Some of your claims may make logical sense, but the lack of factual support makes the argument meaningless and weak.


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Fenstick

Senior Member

12-04-2012

Love this investigative journalism.

So many facts.

/sarcasm


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Parkerdude

Senior Member

12-04-2012

This is all speculation and bad speculation at that.

Pick and choosing what multiple employees have said is hardly a basis for an arguement.

And sadly it will get up-voted just cus its long.


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Raumschiff

Senior Member

12-04-2012

If this is true, then why haven't they started selling Champion hoodies?!?!??!?! I want my Kennen hoodie! :FirstWorldProblems: