Over 400 SQA exam staff begin industrial action over pay dispute

Two 24-hour strikes are to be held this month over pay disputes.

Over 400 SQA exam staff begin industrial action over pay dispute Getty Images

Over 400 members of staff at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) have begun industrial action over a pay dispute.

The work to rule action begins on Friday, February 16 and will last until May 10.

Two 24-hour strikes are to be held on February 23 and 29 by Unite the Union members and the action will also include an overtime ban, a ban on weekend working and a ban on accruing time-off in lieu.

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”.

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.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said earlier this month: “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.”

Coursework marking for National 5, Highers and Advanced Highers are expected to be disrupted. Photo: STV News.STV News

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 earlier this month: “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.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said earlier this month: “While this is a matter for SQA as the employer, the Scottish Government remains in close contact with them and has strongly encouraged resolution talks to resume.

“We have received further reassurances from SQA that learners will not experience disruption to their exams, coursework or grades.”

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