Facebook contractors are threatening to stop work over missing paychecks

Facebook moderators at an Accenture Austin location are facing a pay spree that has resulted in many losing their vacation pay. Workers at the site handle moderation, customer service and other tasks for Facebook and WhatsApp – and have already been threatened with a walkout if the situation is not resolved.

The problems began as early as Jan. 4, when some workers noticed bugs in the system that tracks paid time off (PTO), a bureaucratic mess attributed to a recent change in payroll providers at the site. Things got more serious when the paychecks didn’t arrive on Jan. 6. Internal payroll systems showed many paychecks being zeroed, and workers had no idea when they might get their money.

In an open letter to the CEOs of Facebook and Accenture, which was posted to an internal message board, a group of workers vowed to halt work at the site until paychecks are fully paid.

“If these issues are not resolved immediately, a work stoppage will be imposed,” the letter promised. “The walkout will begin on January 7, 2022 if nothing is resolved.”

Several lump sum payments were made to affected workers shortly after the letter was sent, and Accenture says the company has seen no evidence of a coordinated work stoppage at the site in the days since.

Speaking to employees on Saturday, a chief executive at Accenture’s site said he wasn’t sure when the issue would be resolved, but that the company would cover any late fees or overdraft fees incurred as a result of the delay. “You will receive the amounts due,” he said on the call, “and we’ll get that to you as soon as we can.”

Some workers have received lump sum payments from the company to bridge them until the full amount can be properly calculated. But officials at the site say not everyone has received those payments and many are in desperate financial straits.

On Monday night, a moderator at the Austin site said more than 50 people on his team still haven’t been paid. “I know a lot of people who are behind on bills, utilities, food and rent,” he said The edge. “When you’re only getting $16 an hour in a city like Austin, missing a check is like missing a leg.”

The problem is particularly acute because of overtime pay and expenses incurred during the holidays that have been lost in the mix between providers. “Some employees have had to take out payday loans just so they have enough money to buy groceries for their children,” said another employee The edge.

Accenture rep Stacey Jones, asked to comment, said the company is working to fix the problem. “We recently switched payroll providers and encountered some unexpected challenges during our first payroll run with the new provider,” Jones told The Verge. “Our top priority as of last week is getting our employees who are struggling paid – and we continue to encourage our employees who need help to reach out to their manager or Human Resources so we can help them resolve it.”

Meta (parent company of Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp) often outsources moderation and other staffing services to companies like Accenture, although in other cases the arrangement has worked to the benefit of employees. A 2019 edge Research at an Accenture Austin location where YouTube videos were moderated found that managers often forced employees to take breaks and forego vacations when faced with high demand.

When asked, Facebook confirmed the disruption and highlighted Accenture’s efforts to address it. “Accenture has notified its employees of this issue,” said Meta representative Kadia Koroma, “and is working to resolve it as soon as possible.”

Update 1:35pm ET: Added new information from Accenture that the company has seen no evidence of a work stoppage at the site.

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