Meta is being sued by content moderators for alleged “union-busting” in Kenya

When a content moderator learned that his employer, Sama, would terminate its agreement with Meta, he joined the 260 other employees who had to begin looking for new employment. David, who requested that his actual name not be published for fear of reprisals, worked with Sama for several years, ensuring that pictures of violence, child abuse, and sexual exploitation were stayed off Facebook and Instagram. He earned $483 a month.

Although the job was mentally draining, it allowed David to relocate to Kenya and earn more money than he could back home, enabling him to send some money to his family. Although the work was challenging, David believed he had a unique set of abilities that he intended to use to land a similar job with Majorel, the Luxembourg-based outsourcing firm that would take over the Meta moderating contract in Nairobi. At the moment, Majorel has agreements for content control with TikTok in Nairobi and Meta in Morocco. The remuneration for moderators at Majorel is much less than at Sama.

Meta has disavowed involvement in the case

But despite his expertise and fluency in popular African languages and English, Majorel has yet to respond to David. In actuality, neither Meta’s new contractor nor any of his Sama coworkers—many of whom had sought employment at Majorel—called for interviews nor extended offers.

Content moderators sue Meta over alleged 'union-busting' in Kenya
Credits: The Economic Times

David said, “There are rumours that Majorel is saying they are trying to avoid ‘troubles”. Further adding, “If your profile has Sama on it, you will never be considered, no matter how qualified or good you are at what you do.”

Moderator Daniel Motaung tried to establish a union at Sama in 2019 so that the staff could speak out against poor working conditions and low pay. After being let go, Motaung sued Sama in Kenya’s labour court, claiming that Sama had participated in union-busting and that its working conditions amounted to forced labour and human trafficking. Sama has refuted the claims, while Meta has disavowed involvement in the case by claiming that Motaung is not a member of its staff and contesting the legitimacy of the Kenyan court.

The company will not accept candidates from Sama

A recent lawsuit asserts that the accusations David and his coworkers heard are accurate and that Majorel specifically instructed its recruiters to steer clear of applicants from Sama. The case was brought on behalf of 43 of Sama’s content moderators, including David, by the UK organisation Foxglove Legal and the Kenyan law firm Nzili & Sumbi Advocates. According to the petition, the Sama contract was terminated not due to redundancy, as claimed by Meta and Sama, but rather as retaliation against the employees for organising and speaking out. Sama, Majorel, and Meta are included in the lawsuit.

The complaint states that Sama never sent out a redundancy notification. The lawsuit also asserts that Majorel used discriminatory recruiting practices by avoiding employing any former Sama workers and that Meta gave Majorel specific instructions not to do so. If Majorel had particular instructions from Meta to avoid Sama personnel, a spokesman for Meta named Ben Walters declined to comment. A request for comment from Sama and Majorel went unanswered.

Recruiters for Majorel informed potential Sama applicants in text conversations shared with the legal team that they wouldn’t be considered. “The company will not accept candidates from Sama. It’s a strict no,” one recruiter said.