Scottish exam dates in doubt after SQA workers vote to strike over pay
Scottish exam dates could be thrown into disarray after staff at Scotland's exam results body voted to support strike action in a dispute over pay.
Workers at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) have backed industrial action over a below-inflation pay deal union bosses describe as "unacceptable".
The Unite union has warned next year's exams may be affected.
The vote covers hundreds of staff on all grades and roles, including managers, administrators, researchers and processors.
An uplift has been offered for 2023 and 2024, but Unite said that for the majority of its members, the offer is worth no more than 5.75 per cent in 2023 and 3.15 per cent in 2024.
Throughout this year, the Retail Price Index has run at between 8.9 per cent and 13.8 per cent.
Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, commented: "The resounding mandate for strike action is a direct result of senior management's failure to make a fair pay offer. Unless this is quickly addressed then our members will have no option but to take strike action in the fight for better jobs, pay and conditions at the SQA."
The vote marks the second year running that Unite members at SQA have voted in favour of strike action.
The national body is set to be replaced in 2025 under Scottish Government plans. However, the union says it has concerns over the impact on the existing SQA workforce.
Alison Maclean, the union's industrial officer, said: "We will now discuss potential dates for industrial action which could affect the SQA's ability to provide exam results next year.
"There remains a number of outstanding issues in relation to the scrapping of the SQA which have still not been addressed.
"The nation's new qualifications body is set to be up and running in 2025. Yet we have been given no clarity on how this organisation will operate. It simply isn't good enough, which is why the Scottish Government and SQA management repeatedly fail our members' confidence test."
The SQA said: "The pay deal on offer is fair and reasonable, and represents the maximum amount that is affordable and permitted by the Scottish Government’s pay strategy. It represents a total average increase of 7.43 per cent in year one and a further total average rise of 5.19 per cent in year two, taking into account pay progression.
"Industrial action is not in the interests of learners. We are committed to minimising any disruption and have contingency plans in place to protect delivery of vital services.
"The majority of SQA colleagues are not members of Unite. SQA employs around 1100 colleagues."
A Scottish Government spokesperson commented: "While operational decisions on pay and staffing matters are the responsibility of the SQA, the Scottish Government is concerned by the potential impact of any action on students.
"We continue to urge employers and trade unions to make every effort to reach a settlement which is both fair and affordable with a view to resolving this dispute."