Sama, the outsourcing company formerly known as Samasource, has been ordered by the Employment and Labour Relations court to continue paying its Facebook content moderators in Kenya who are challenging their layoffs. Over 180 workers filed a petition to challenge their layoffs and the court wants the outsourcing company to continue paying them pending the determination of the petition.
The moderators claim that Sama dismissed them unfairly without notice and without paying them their compensation according to the Kenyan law. The employees are based in Kenya but are from different parts of the continent.
The moderators say that their contracts came to an end on March 31, 2023. They do have an issue with this and their lawyer, Mercy Mutemi said, “Terminating the contracts of the Petitioners in this manner is gravely prejudicial considering there is a live Petition before this Honourable Court challenging the termination of contracts and the interim orders subsisting,”
The moderators moved to court back in March to challenge and successfully blocked their termination. Meta (Facebook’s parent company) did not agree with this saying that the Kenya courts have no jurisdiction to determine a case brought against foreign entities. This was just a clever way for Facebook to unhook itself from this legal issue and avoid potential legal liability.
Judge Byram Ongaya was not having any of that and in his ruling, he said, “For the avoidance of doubt, the order given on March 20 is in place until further orders of the court or until the determination of the case.” The case will be heard on May 25, 2023
The moderators also want compensation for unfair termination equivalent to 12 months of gross salary, damages totaling Ksh 10 million per moderator for unfair labor practices and Ksh 20 million each for violation of their rights.
I will be keen to see how this turns out and how Meta reacts.
Meta Hiring Using a different firm
According to the content moderators, Meta has terminated their contract and was planning to use a different outsourcing company, Majorel Kenya Ltd, to hire new moderators. This move raises serious issues with the outsourcing of content moderators, how can Meta do this without consequences. They can argue that the issue is primarily with Sama but I think they could do more. Meta should have had more say in this and made sure its moderators are well taken care of. This raises serious questions regarding the relationship between outsourcing companies and the companies that hired them. Do the companies like Meta have any say on how things are done or do they let outsourcing companies do as they want.