Nairobi News


Sama denies calling police on protesting employees

Content moderators under Sama, Meta’s content review sub-contractor in Africa, have denied calling the police after their employees on Friday picketed at the company’s headquarters in Nairobi demanding April salary while urging it to observe the court orders that barred it from conducting mass layoffs.

In a statement, Sama said they respect the right to peacefully demonstrate.

“In the interest of safety, other tenants at Sameer Business Park requested property management to engage police,” Sama said.

On the other hand, moderators claimed that it was Sama who called the police on them.

“Sama responded to today’s peaceful sit-in of moderators at their office with the unnecessary and heavy-handed deployment of a unit of riot police. There is no evidence to support Sama’s assertion that the police were called by others within the building,” a statement from the moderators reads in part.

According to the moderators, the statement issued by Sama on Friday in response to a sit-in by content moderators demanding they be paid, as mandated by court order, is factually wrong and misleading about the powers of the court order granted by Justice Nduma Nderi of the Nairobi court.

Sama said they are in full compliance with the court order.

“The petitioners have twice asked the court to extend their expiring contracts and twice have been declined. The Sama moderation contract with Facebook has expired – the Court Orders did not stop it from expiring and we do not have any content moderation work to give,” Sama said.

Also read: Moderators in case against Meta hold demos at Sama offices

“The court declined to grant the order seeking to prevent the expiry of contracts and directed that the individual contracts cannot be varied. As a consequence, the expiry dates of each contract of employment could not be changed and every employee’s employment expired automatically on their respective expiry date.”

In their response, the moderators directed Sama to Section C of the court order from the Employment and Labour Relations Court of March 20, 2023. It is made clear in Section C that Facebook is forbidden from terminating the contracts of content moderators.

The order reads: “the 1st [Meta], 2nd [Meta Ireland] and 3rd [Sama] Respondents [are] restrained from terminating the contracts of the Facebook Content Moderators pending the hearing of this application.”

Facebook is also forbidden from transferring the work to another provider.

Section E of the court order states that Facebook is forbidden from engaging any other party – and specifically outsourcing company Majorel – to provide replacement content moderation services for the ones provided by Sama.

The suggestion in Sama’s statement that it is no longer doing content moderation work appears to be evidence that Facebook does not intend to obey that part of the order either.

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Sama dropped Meta’s contract and content review services, laying off 260 people in the process, to concentrate on labeling work (computer vision data annotation), following the heat from 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, union busting and failure to provide “adequate” mental health and psychosocial support. He was allegedly laid off for organizing a 2019 strike and trying to unionize Sama’s employees. Sama and Majorel moderators earlier this week voted to form a union.

The moderators filed the suit alleging that Sama failed to issue redundancy notices, as required by Kenyan law.

The suit also claims, among other issues, that the moderators were not issued with a 30-day termination notice, and that their terminal dues were pegged on their signing of non-disclosure documents. Sama says it observed the Kenyan law.

The demonstrations came after Sama, in an email, instructed moderators to clear with the company by May 11, a move the employees say is against the existing court orders.

The 184 moderators sued Sama for allegedly laying them off unlawfully, after it wound down its content review arm in March, and Majorel, the social media giant’s new partner in Africa, for blacklisting on instruction by Meta.

They want Sama to withdraw its statement immediately, apologise for the threat to deploy tear gas and pay the wages they owe us by law.

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