Hundreds of staff members at Scotland’s exam body are set to take prolonged strike action over a pay dispute.
Unite the Union has announced that around 400 members at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) will be taking part in industrial action which is expected to have a “major impact” on their ability to prepare for student exam season.
Members will initially hold two 24-hour stoppages on February 23 and 29. The action will also include an overtime ban, a ban on weekend working and a ban on accruing time-off in lieu beginning on February 16 and lasting until May 10.
The pay dispute centres on the SQA’s two-year pay offer for 2023 and 2024 which Unite has said equates to a “substantial real terms pay cut”.
Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Unite’s SQA members are being forced by senior management to take industrial action. The pay offer on the table represents a brutal pay cut and it’s totally unacceptable.
“Unite will support our members all the way in the fight for better jobs, pay and conditions at the SQA.”
The industrial action is expected to disrupt the external verification process which will impact the quality and assurance and awarding of qualifications.
Coursework marking for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher national course is also expected to be disrupted.
Alison Maclean, Unite industrial officer, added: “Unite has attempted to resolve this dispute through negotiation. We have nonetheless hit a brick wall because SQA management are just incapable of listening to our members’ fair pay aspirations.
“Disappointingly but predictably Scottish government ministers have also run for cover claiming the dispute has got nothing to do with them when they are the paymasters.
“The industrial action will have a major impact on the coursework marking and external verification process. The blame for any disruption lies entirely with the SQA’s intractable management and the Scottish government’s inaction.”
A SQA spokesperson said: “This is nothing more than scaremongering by Unite. We have robust contingency plans in place and we can reassure learners that there will be no impact on their coursework, exams or grades.
“We made an increased pay offer that fairly recognises the valuable work of our SQA colleagues. It represents a total average increase of 7.43% in year one and a further total average rise of 5.19% in year two, including pay progression. It is the best offer possible which is affordable and within the limits of the Public Sector Pay Strategy.”
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