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Facebook contractors threaten to stop work over missing paychecks

Facebook moderators at an Accenture site in Austin are facing a payroll disaster that has left many without their holiday paychecks. Workers at the site handle moderation, customer service, and other tasks for Facebook and WhatsApp — and a work stoppage has already been threatened if the situation is not resolved.

The problems began as early as January 4th, when some workers noticed errors in the system that tracks paid time off (PTO), a clerical confusion that was attributed to a recent change in payroll providers at the site. Things got more serious when the January 6th round of paychecks failed to arrive. Internal pay stub systems showed many paychecks as zeroed out, and workers were left with no idea of when they might get their money.

In an open letter to the CEOs of Facebook and Accenture, posted on an internal message board, a group of workers pledged to halt work at the site until the paychecks were issued in full.

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

Several lump-sum payments were issued to affected workers shortly after the letter posted, and Accenture says the company has not seen any indication of coordinated work stoppage at the site in the days since.

In a call with employees Saturday, a managing director at the Accenture site said he was unsure when the issue would be resolved, but the company would cover any late fees or overdraft charges incurred as a result of the delay. “You will be paid the amounts that you are due,” he said on the call, “and we will get that to you as quickly as we possibly can.”

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

As of Monday night, one moderator at the Austin site said more than 50 people on his team still had not been paid. “I know many who are behind on bills, utilities, food, and rent,” he told The Verge. “When you only get paid $16 an hour in a town like Austin, missing a check is like missing a leg.”

The issue is particularly severe because of overtime pay and expenses incurred over the holidays, which have been lost in the shuffle between providers. “Some employees have had to take out payday loans just so they could have enough money to buy food for their children,” another employee told The Verge.

Reached for comment, Accenture representative Stacey Jones emphasized that the company was working to resolve the problem. “We recently switched payroll providers and experienced some unanticipated challenges during our first payroll run with the new provider,” Jones told The Verge. “Our number one priority since last week has been getting our people who have experienced issues paid – and, we continue encouraging our people who need assistance to reach out to their supervisor or HR, so we can help them resolve.”

Meta (parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp) often subcontracts moderation and other personnel services to firms like Accenture, although the arrangement has been led to employee welfare in other instances. A 2019 Verge investigation into an Accenture site in Austin moderating YouTube videos found managers often forced employees to work through breaks and forego vacations when facing high demand.

Reached for comment, Facebook confirmed the disruption and emphasized 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 not seen evidence of work stoppage at the site.