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WhatsApp’s Spanish language content moderators push for equal pay in internal letter

They say Accenture excludes them from a $2 per hour premium paid to other bilingual moderators

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

WhatsApp’s Spanish language content moderators and customer service representatives are pushing the company for equal pay, according to an internal letter obtained by The Verge. They say they’ve been excluded from a $2 per hour premium paid to other bilingual contractors. The workers are employed by Accenture, a third-party contracting firm, in Austin, Texas.

“For several years now, Accenture, Facebook, and Whatsapp have denied equal treatment and pay to Spanish language Contingent Workers,” employees say in the letter. “It is an insult for companies like Facebook and Accenture to publicly champion diversity, but yet fail to deliver this to its own workers.” Accenture classifies much of its workforce as contingent, meaning employees are hired as contractors for a specific period of time.

Workers are demanding that Spanish language contractors receive the $2 premium, as well as backpay for the money they missed out on since they were hired.

One worker says they were told they’d need to learn Arabic or Portuguese in order to receive the premium. “I’m already bilingual,” the employee says they responded, in an interview with The Verge. Still, the policy didn’t change.

The letter was sent to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart, and Accenture CEO Julie Sweet. It was posted today on Workplace, Facebook’s internal communications platform. It currently has 89 signatures from Facebook, WhatsApp, and Accenture employees.

The letter came after workers pushed for years to have equal pay, according to the internal letter. “Managers and HR reps for Accenture in Austin, Texas have not only ignored the complaints of discrimination for several years now, but they also actively engaged in ensuring this gross injustice go unacknowledged and unaddressed,” the note says. “We say this blatant act of racism and discrimination towards its own essential workers needs to end now.”

Facebook content moderators at Accenture’s Austin office were asked to come back to the office during the pandemic. Many said they feared for their safety and felt the company hadn’t adequately addressed their concerns. These employees are often among the lowest paid Facebook workers, and make roughly $18.50 an hour.

Accenture’s Spanish speaking customer service reps say they make as little as $16.50 an hour. “Accenture is the Walmart of the tech industry,” an employee tells The Verge. “Most of us have to have two jobs to survive. We get paid $16.50 an hour. That’s not a livable wage in Austin.”

In a statement emailed to The Verge, an Accenture spokesperson said: “We strive to ensure that all our people are compensated fairly and equitably with market relevant pay. We have an unwavering commitment to equality and zero tolerance for racism, bigotry and hate of any kind.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Verge.

Update June 30th, 11:37AM PST: Article updated with a statement from Accenture.