Facebook Content Moderators in Kenya to Receive Pay Rise Following TIME Investigation

In a two-week period following the publication of a TIME article, Facebook content managers based in Kenya are set to receive an increase in their salaries between 30% and 50%. investigationShe remarked on the low salaries, bad working conditions, and allegations of union-busting at Sama, their employer direct.

According to reports, Sama informed employees that every content manager will be paid an additional 20,000 Kenyan Shillings ($176) each month.

Sama’s lowest-paid Facebook moderators will receive around 50,000 Kenyan Shekels ($439) per month after taxes, which is approximately $2.20/hour for a nine-hour work day. This increase is a significant improvement on the $1.50 an hour that was previously offered. According to sources, Sama promised all content moderators a one-month bonus as an incentive for them to stay with the company.
[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]

Learn More Inside Facebook’s African Sweatshop

Even with the pay rise, Sama employees remain some of Facebook’s lowest-paid workers anywhere in the world. The average hourly starting salary for an outsourced content manager at Facebook is $18.

In the meeting on Tuesday, Abel Kamau, a human resources director at Sama’s Nairobi office, said that the salary changes were not a result of the TIME article. “The truth is that this conversation was still going to happen with these events occurring or not,” he said.

Kamau added that the pay increase had been made possible because of decisions to cut budgets elsewhere within Sama and did not indicate that the company would receive any more money from Meta, Facebook’s parent company, to cover staffing costs. Sama has not yet responded to comment requests. Meta has declined to comment on the article.

The meeting did not address TIME’s revelations that Sama managers have been accused of suppressing a unionization effort in 2019. Daniel Motaung—a whistleblower and former employee who led more than 100 Sama workers in an attempted strike—told TIME that he had been fired following his efforts to secure better pay for staff.

Motaung stated that he was happy about the increase in pay, however, he said it was too small. Motaung noted that organizing workers had demanded that their salaries be increased by two-thirds in 2019. “This increase will make a difference but it won’t change their lives,” Motaung said in the statement. “They still won’t be able to buy a house or feed their families in line with the ‘lifting the poor out of poverty’ narrative that Sama continuously boasts about.”

Daniel Motaung
Aart Verrips to TIMEDaniel Motaung

TIME spoke with several Sama serving content moderators, who said they were happy about the raise. Others expressed mixed feelings. “It is still not enough,” one worker said, noting that content moderators based in different countries are still paid significantly more.

Facebook employees’ worries

On Feb. 14, the day TIME’s article about Sama was published, a Meta employee shared the story to the company’s internal employee forum, Workplace.

A number of employees started a conversation in the comments thread. “Can we stop doing this sort of crap?” the first comment said.

A second employee’s comment was more lengthy. “This was extremely difficult to read and that’s all the more reason why everyone should read it—to learn about the real human cost of the way we do work,” the employee wrote.

“Our response worries me,” the comment continued, referring to the official statement a Meta spokesperson had provided for the story, which said that the company regularly conducts audits of third-party content moderation providers like Sama. “To me this means either: 1) we didn’t audit this vendor, 2) we audited them, knew this was happening, and we’re OK with it, 3) we audited them but our audit missed this. None of these scenarios sound good and I hope I am missing something.”

The employee said that publishing the findings of any Meta audits of Sama’s Kenya office “would be great for transparency and help instill confidence in what we do. And if we aren’t comfortable publishing our audits, that seems like something we should fix.”

TIME asked Meta to not share audits with Meta.

Sama’s reaction to the TIME story

Two days after the publication of TIME’s story, Sama published a blog post on their website titled “What TIME got wrong.”

The blog post did not address Motaung’s allegations of union suppression, but said the company’s earlier rate of pay was fair. “To be clear, there was never a strike and the article falsely alleges that Sama does not compensate its employees fairly,” it said.

Sama wrote in the blog post that this set a work week limit for content moderators at 37.4 hour per week. But content moderators who spoke with TIME said that this figure only includes the time that they are expected to be logged into Facebook’s systems and looking at content, not the rest of the time that they are contractually obligated to spend doing their jobs, such as attending meetings. TIME has seen Sama contracts that say employees are expected to work up to 45 hours per week.

The employees claim that they work 40 hours a week, including attendance at meetings and wellness times. They can also expect to work 45 hours if the hour-long breaks in between are added. TIME has also seen emails sent by Sama managers in 2019 instructing employees to be on duty for the full 45 hours, not including breaks, due to “client [Facebook] demand.” When employees complained, managers pointed them to clauses in their contracts that said they were required to work for up to 45 hours per week with no extra pay.

In a statement on Tuesday, Cori Crider, the director of Foxglove, a legal NGO that is representing Motaung in a case against Sama, said that the news of the pay rise showed that “Daniel and the Alliance were right to stand up for their rights—and that his colleagues still at Sama have everything to gain from keeping the pressure on.” (The Alliance was the name of the group of employees who demanded a pay rise in 2019.)

“Moderators expect and deserve job security, for their pay to be doubled as they originally asked, real mental health support, and the right to negotiate with management as a union,” Crider added.

Motaung told TIME that Sama made concessions and was a sign that Facebook content moderaters would continue to be effective if they kept raising their voices. “To my former colleagues and all the content moderators around the world, do note this move by Sama, and learn that speaking up against ruthless corporate power can bring about your salvation,” he said. “Organizing works! Keep pushing and you’ll get what you deserve.”


Related Articles

Back to top button