UCU blasts Facebook over 'ridiculous' video ban

University and College Union told it is 'not authorised' to promote a campaign video for its college pay strike ballot

Stephen Exley

UCU strike campaign video banned by Facebook

The University and College Union (UCU) has hit out at Facebook, after the social media giant banned it from promoting a video about its ongoing strike ballot.

After strikes took place at six English colleges last week over pay, UCU is reballoting staff at 28 further colleges.  The Trade Union Act 2016, which came into force last year, means that for strike action to be legal, at least 50 per cent of union members in a college have to vote in a ballot, with a majority supporting strike action.

The union is therefore targeting colleges where it believes there is still an appetite for industrial action.

It comes as the UCU has slammed a 1 per cent pay rise offer from the Association of Colleges as a “wholly inadequate response to the pay crisis in further education” and said it increases the likelihood of more waves of strikes after Christmas.

College pay strike ballot

In their 2018-19 pay claim, the unions representing college employees asked for a pay rise of 5 per cent, or a fixed increase of £1,500 for staff earning less than £30,000 per year.

The AoC, which represents FE colleges in negotiations (although each is free to set its own pay award), said its members could not afford to pay this increase without financial assistance from government. The Department for Education subsequently said that it would not provide additional funding to pay for a rise for college staff, as it did for school teachers.

In a bid to drum up support for strikes, the UCU has published a campaign video asking members to “vote yes for strike action”.

In it, one member says: “People are absolutely sick to death of not getting a pay rise, of feeling undervalued, overworked and everything else that goes with FE.”

Advert 'not authorised'

However, Facebook has blocked the union’s attempt to run a paid promotion of the advert.

A message sent to UCU from the website states: “The text and/or imagery you're using is related to politics or an issue of national importance, based on the definition we're using for enforcement. However, your page is not authorised to run these types of ads.”

A spokesperson for UCU told Tes: “It is quite ridiculous that we can’t promote a video for a legal ballot on Facebook. We have spent the past few days trying to point this out to Facebook, but with no joy. Hopefully, they will now see sense and we can play our fair pay video. We have contacted the TUC, as this is a problem other unions will encounter but shouldn’t have to.”

A spokesperson for Facebook said: “Our team got in touch with the UCU when it first requested to run this ad, to let them know that, in order to run an ad related to politics, the page admins must first register as an authorised advertiser and say who paid for the ad.

"Anyone can request to be authorised to run ads related to politics in just a few minutes, and once approved can then run ads with a ‘paid for by’ disclaimer that will then appear in Facebook’s Ad Library. We see this as an important feature for increasing accountability and transparency for political advertising. We will continue to offer our support to enable the UCU to find an easy way to run the ad in question.”

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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