SQA staff strike will severely delay exam appeals process, union warns

Tens of thousands of appeals will be “severely delayed” when staff at an exams body take strike action next month, a union has warned.

Unite said 86.7% of its Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) members have voted to walk out on a 78.9% turnout following a “derisory” pay offer, while 95.9% also voted to take action short of a strike.

Members are also concerned about the future of their jobs as the SQA is being scrapped as part of education reforms.

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Unite said members will take three days of strike action on September 8, 15 and 16, while an overtime ban and a ban on accrual of time off in lieu will be in effect from September 8 to November 30.

Tens of thousands of appeals will be “severely delayed” when staff at an exams body take strike action next month, a union has warned.

The union said the SQA is due to confirm the results of priority appeals to admissions service Ucas on September 6, while the appeals service for standard appeals opened on August 9 and the deadline for centres to submit these is September 2.

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Alison MacLean, Unite industrial officer, said: “Tens of thousands of student appeals will be severely delayed by Unite’s industrial action at the SQA. Our members are disillusioned, frustrated and angry.

“Not only have they been offered a brutal real terms pay cut but they have in effect been locked out of the ongoing discussions surrounding education reform.

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“Meaningful dialogue and an opportunity for staff to shape the discussions was promised to us in light of the vast experience of our members.

“Hundreds of workers could see their job roles and conditions being significantly altered yet none of us are any the wiser on what this proposed reform will mean on a day to day basis.”

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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.

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Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Unite’s SQA members have emphatically supported strike action due to a derisory pay offer which is worth as low as 1.7% for some workers.

“There are serious concerns over education reform in Scotland, and specifically what this means for the jobs of our members.

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“Unite will always defend our members’ jobs, pay and conditions.”

A spokesperson for SQA said: “As a public sector employer, we are working with the Scottish Government to seek agreement to improve our pay offer.

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“We are very disappointed that industrial action has been called before the dispute resolution process has concluded. However, as always our primary focus is on learners, and it is important to stress that anyone waiting for the outcome of a priority appeal to secure a university place or job will be unaffected."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “While this is a matter for SQA as the employer, we remain in close contact with them to ensure that resolution talks resume. We hope that any potential disruption can be avoided through further negotiation.

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“The Scottish Government remains committed to ensuring that workers’ rights are protected throughout the process of education reform and when the SQA is replaced by a new qualifications body.

“We will continue to engage with SQA management, staff and unions to try to address the concerns raised.”