Content moderators under Sama, Meta’s subcontractor for content review in Africa, protested at the company’s headquarters in Kenya earlier today demanding April’s salary while urging the company to comply with court orders barring the company from mass layoffs. to be carried out.
The demonstrations came after Sama instructed moderators in an email to speak to the company before May 11, a move the employees say violates existing court orders.
The 184 moderators sued Sama for allegedly unlawfully firing them, after it shut down its content review arm in March, and Majorel, the social media giant’s new partner in Africa, for blacklisting on behalf of from meta.
The court issued a temporary injunction on March 21 prohibiting Sama from making any form of dismissal, and Meta from hiring Majorel, who was also ordered to refrain from blacklisting the moderators . Sama was ordered to continue reviewing content on Meta’s platforms and to be the only provider in Africa pending the ruling of the case.
Sama told TechCrunch it sent the notice “to personnel whose contracts had expired to go through our regular approval process. This approval process includes the return of business equipment to ensure that all terminal dues can be paid without deduction for that equipment, in accordance with Kenyan law.
It said the moderators’ contracts ended in March after the contract with Meta expired, saying it was only processing the last dues.
“We understand the frustration of our former employees at being led by others to believe that they would all receive indefinite pay while on furlough, but that is not what the court dictated,” said Sama.
Still, in an April 12 affidavit, seen by TechCrunch, Sama’s VP for global services, Annpeace Alwala, had asked the court to suspend the temporary injunction, saying that keeping the content moderators “imposed serious costs.” Alwala had set out that it would cost about $90,000 monthly to retain the moderators, and another $135,000 to process their work permits and bail.
The moderators filed a lawsuit alleging that Sama failed to issue notices of resignation as required by Kenyan law. Among other things, the lawsuit also alleges that the moderators were not given 30 days’ notice and that their dues are tied to signing non-disclosure documents. Sama says she adheres to Kenyan law.
Sama, whose long list of clients includes OpenAI, discontinued Meta’s contract and content review services, laying off 260 people to focus on label work (computer vision data annotation), following the heat of a 2022 lawsuit in Kenya by its former content moderator , Daniel Motaung.
Motuang, a South African, had accused Sama and Meta of forced labor and human trafficking, unfair labor relations, breaking up unions and failing to provide “adequate” mental health and psychosocial support. He is said to have been fired for organizing a strike in 2019 and trying to unite Sama employees. Sama and Majorel moderators voted to form a union earlier this week.