86.7% back strike action after ‘derisory’ pay offer 

Unite the union has today (25 August) confirmed that its Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) members have voted to take strike action. 

86.7 per cent supported strike action on a 78.9 per cent turnout.  95.9 per cent of members also voted to take action short of a strike. Unite represents hundreds of SQA workers across all levels of staff and functions.

Unite can confirm the following three days of strike action: 8, 15 and 16 September.

An overtime ban and ban on accrual of time off in lieu will also be in effect from 8 September to 30 November.

The SQA will confirm the results of priority appeals to UCAS on 6 September. In terms of standard appeals, the appeals service opened on 9 August and the deadline for centres to submit these is 2 September. 

Unite's industrial action will now disrupt the standard appeals stage of the process with the trade union estimating that up to 22,000 standard appeals will be ‘severely delayed’.

In a consultative ballot in July, Unite announced that 95 per cent of its SQA members rejected a ‘derisory’ pay offer which is worth between 1.7 to 4 per cent depending on job grading.  The broader measure of inflation (RPI) has now soared to hit a forty-year high at 12.3 per cent.

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 going forward. These concerns have in no way, shape or form been addressed. Unite will always defend our members’ jobs, pay and conditions.”

Unite has written to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, to repeat its concerns over the failure by the SQA and Scottish Government to meaningfully consult with the trade unions on education reform. 

Unite further reiterated its serious ongoing concerns over the proposed disbanding 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, added: “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. 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.”

In 2021, the Scottish Government announced it would disband the 1000-strong SQA. It tasked Professor Ken Muir with bringing forward several proposals for the reform of Scotland’s education and qualifications system.

Three new national bodies are to be created - a qualifications body, a national agency for Scottish education, and an independent inspection body. The Scottish Government has given a commitment to delivering an operating model for these new bodies by the winter of this year with the new bodies to be fully operational in 2024.  

Unite maintains that it will be impossible for the new operating model to be in place later this year without the legitimate concerns of its members being addressed.


Notes to Editor

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Unite Scotland is the country’s biggest and most diverse trade union with around 150,000 members. The union is led in Scotland by Pat Rafferty.