SQA strikes: planned dates and how it will affect students

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has announced that it will soon undertake its first ever strike.

With Scottish exams having wrapped up, the SQA is looking to strike as the results come out (Photo: Shutterstock)
With Scottish exams having wrapped up, the SQA is looking to strike as the results come out (Photo: Shutterstock)

The dates on which the SQA has chosen to strike poses a potential threat to the results of thousands of high school students.

Why are the SQA striking?

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Conflict between SQA workers and senior management is what has triggered the strike according to Unite, the union responsible for representing hundreds of members of the SQA.

With Scottish exams having wrapped up, the SQA is looking to strike as the results come out (Photo: Shutterstock)

The SQA has been subjected to an internal restructuring process that has resulted in a number of workers being left without set job roles, and other members in positions they are not best suited to, but felt they had no other option to accept to ensure job security.

Unite said, “Members have raised a collective dispute with the SQA due to concerns about the organisation’s ability to restructure in a fair and competent manner.

“In our opinion, the workforce is being harassed and intimidated by the actions of senior management, who are attempting to deflect from their own mismanagement.”

When will the strikes happen?

The strikes will occur over three separate days between June 2019 and exam results day in the first week of August.

Walkouts are planned for 26 June and 22 July as well as an overtime ban in the week leading up to results day on 6 August.

In a notice regarding the industrial action, the SQA said, “The SQA is fully committed to ensuring that candidates receive their results on time.

“We have an established governance framework in place, where progress and risks are managed, supported by robust contingency plans.”

Workers forced into redundancy

The restructuring process at the SQA has left workers with a lot of uncertainty. Part of the process saw the SQA launching a voluntary redundancy scheme which recently ended. Off the back of that process, 62 workers were approved for redundancy.

Unite states that the exercise was conducted “without proper or timely consultation”, and breached an agreement with the union.

Unite claims that a number of staff want to reconsider their original decision to opt for the voluntary redundancy due to the fact that “all staff would be redeployed to a suitable position” was not communicated effectively.

“At the juncture of the voluntary early release exercise this option was not viably on the table leader to a certain number of staff seeing no future at the SQA due to the restructuring process,” Unite said.

“Unite now fears that extra responsibilities will be added to the depleted workforce and a new restructuring process will be initiated, which is the origins of the current dispute.”

SQA staff morale at all time low

Following a ballot held by Unite, 90 per cent of the members who participated voted in favour of striking.

Alison MacLean, Unite regional industrial officer, said, “Staff morale within SQA generally is at an all-time low.

“The confusion and chaos this restructure is causing has wide and deep impacts across the organisation.”

What does the SQA say?

A spokesman for the SQA said, “We are committed to working in partnership with the Unite union and have made significant progress on the process that is undertaken in a restructure.”

Regarding one of the actions taken by the SQA, he said, “We have surveyed those colleagues who have recently gone through a restructure, and anonymous results will be shared with our union partners, and an action plan will be developed with senior managers.”

The spokesman said that action will continue to be conducted over the coming months.

“Independent auditors have agreed to guide and support our process for ongoing audit of the application of all HR policies and procedures with trade unions.”

Looking to the future, the spokesman said, “We are also committed to listen to, and address, the important issues that have been raised by its members.

“We are focused on relationship building and moving forward, together, into the future.”