Over 400 SQA staff accept improved pay offer following strike action

Unite the Union said on Tuesday that a revised offer was put to its members last week, leading to a suspension of strike action.

Over 400 SQA staff accept improved pay offer following strike action, Unite the Union announces iStock

More than 400 members of staff at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) have accepted an improved pay offer after undertaking industrial action.

It comes as union members took strike action on February 23, whilst also implementing an overtime ban, a ban on weekend working and a ban on on accruing time-off in lieu which came into effect on February 16.

Unite the Union said on Tuesday that a revised offer was put to its members last week, leading to a suspension of strike action.

The updated offer, which has been accepted by Unite members, will mean a 5.75% pay increase in 2023, and 3.15% for 2024 along with a £1,000 cash lump sum.

It follows an initial pay offer of 4.75% for 2023 by the SQA. 

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “The pay offer now accepted by the majority of Unite’s membership at the SQA represents a significant shift from the education body’s original position.

“Unite alone has moved the dial during this dispute and our members can be proud of the brave position that they have taken. We will continue to back our SQA members in the battles to come for better jobs, pay and conditions.” 

A spokesperson for the SQA said: “We are pleased that the membership of both Unite and Unison have now accepted the improved two-year pay offer which brings industrial action to an end.

“SQA has operated in good faith throughout these negotiations, operating within the limits of public sector pay policy. The improved pay offer was made possible when the Scottish Government gave us flexibility and funding last week to operate beyond these limits.

“We will now seek to move forward together and focus on delivering for Scotland’s learners.”

Unite said it will continue to highlight concerns over the ‘hostile attitude’ of SQA senior management towards staff and unions during the pay dispute.

Unite stated that the dispute could have been resolved ‘months ago’ on the basis of a ‘willingness’ by the SQA to positively engage with the union.

Unite has also raised its ongoing concerns over the education body’s failure along with the Scottish Government to meaningfully consult with unions on education reform. 

The union has raised specific concerns over the scrapping of the SQA, and the lack of assurances over job roles and locations, conditions and pay of the existing SQA workforce, in any new organisation.

Alison Maclean, Unite industrial officer, said: “Unite has delivered a two-year pay deal along with a cash lump sum which in the circumstances was the best deal possible.

“Despite this current dispute coming to an end, the existing problems at the SQA have not gone away. In fact, some of them are getting worse and our members have had enough of the divisive and increasingly hostile attitude by senior management towards staff and unions.  

“The SQA has seemed more interested in escalating this dispute rather than resolving it.  There is also a job of work to deliver the reform agenda which can only be achieved through a willingness to positively engage with Unite.

“If the prevailing attitude persists, then the tensions between management, the workforce and unions will continue to rise.  

“Unite’s concerns over the Scottish Government’s education reform agenda also continue to grow because there remains zero clarity for the workforce over the day to day working of any new body.” 

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government has ensured that staff and trade unions have been involved in every step of the reform process – this includes the recent consultation on the legislation for the new qualifications body.

“The Scottish Government is committed to protecting staff terms and conditions throughout the process of education reform and we have re-affirmed our commitment to staff within SQA that there will be no compulsory redundancies as a result.

“It is welcome that Unite members have accepted the revised pay offer from SQA, which will avert further strike action and provide assurances to Scotland’s pupils and students.”

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