SQA staff could strike during exams appeal process, union warns

Staff at Scotland’s exams body could go on strike during the busy appeals process in a row over pay, a union has warned.

Unite will launch an industrial action ballot involving workers at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) after they voted down a pay offer that ranged from 1.7% to 4%.

On an 85% turnout, 95% rejected the pay offer, with 84% indicating they would be prepared to strike.

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Unite has hit out at the pay offer as the retail price index of inflation has soared to 11.8% – a figure it says is a 40-year high.

Staff at Scotland’s exams body could go on strike during the busy appeals process in a row over pay, a union has warned.

Concerns have also been raised about the disbanding of the SQA, including a lack of assurances over job roles and locations, conditions and pay within any new organisation.

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The union represents hundreds of workers at the exams body.

Alison MacLean, Unite industrial officer, said: “Hundreds of our SQA members are increasingly concerned about their futures due to the replacement of the SQA. They are being expected to just get on with it and now to add insult to injury, some of our members are also being made an ‘offer’ as low as 1.7% while inflation soars.

“Unite will defend our members’ jobs, pay and conditions, and we will now ballot on strike action which could directly hit the student appeals process.”

Professor Ken Muir previously put forward several recommendations for reforming Scotland’s education and qualifications system, including the replacement of the SQA with a new body.

Three new education bodies will be created – a qualifications body, a national agency for Scottish education, and an independent inspection body.

Ms MacLean said it “beggars belief” that a new organisation can be in place by the winter without issues being resolved.

“We have legitimate concerns over changes to job roles, conditions and pay due to the SQA’s disbanding,” she said.

“How on earth the Scottish Government think they can have a new organisation in action by the winter without all these issues being resolved just beggars belief.”

Unite said it has maintained its position that it will be “impossible” for the new operating model to be in place by winter.

The Scottish Government has committed to the new model being fully operational by 2024.

A spokesperson for the SQA said: “Thousands of learners are currently waiting for their results. They can be confident that delivery of their results on August 9 remains firmly on track.

“Like all public bodies, SQA is subject to the Scottish Government’s public sector pay policy, and the 2022-23 pay offer complies with those requirements.

“We will continue to discuss the pay offer with both of our recognised trade unions.”