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Unite warns of trouble ahead in Scotland as SQA staff accept new pay offer

May 07, 2024

Original Article:

Last month, Unite confirmed that more than 400 SQA workers would begin a period of prolonged industrial action in a row over pay, including 24-hour stoppages, a ban on overtimes, and a ban on weekend working.

Concerns were raised that the action could have a “major impact” on exam preparation in Scotland.

However, Unite said that the two-year pay offer for 2023 and 2024 equated to a real-terms pay cut as it failed to keep up with inflation.

Now, members have accepted a revised pay offer, which was put to the workforce last week and led to the suspension of a planned 24-hour stoppage.

Staff will now receive a 5.75% pay increase in 2023, and 3.15% for 2024 along with a £1,000 cash lump sum.

The initial pay offer for 2023 was 4.75% and contained no cash lump sum.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “The pay offer now accepted by the majority of Unite’s membership at the SQA represents a significant shift from the education body’s original position.

“Unite alone has moved the dial during this dispute and our members can be proud of the brave position that they have taken.

“We will continue to back our SQA members in the battles to come for better jobs, pay and conditions.”

However, the union made clear it would continued to criticise what it described as the “hostile attitude” of SQA senior management “towards staff and unions during this recent pay dispute”.

It also criticised the SQA for its alleged reluctance to engage with the union about education reform, which could result in the SQA itself being scrapped.

Alison Maclean, Unite industrial officer, said: “Unite has delivered a two-year pay deal along with a cash lump sum which in the circumstances was the best deal possible.”

“Despite this current dispute coming to an end, the existing problems at the SQA have not gone away. In fact, some of them are getting worse and our members have had enough of the divisive and increasingly hostile attitude by senior management towards staff and unions.

“The SQA has seemed more interested in escalating this dispute rather than resolving it.

“There is also a job of work to deliver the reform agenda which can only be achieved through a willingness to positively engage with Unite.

"If the prevailing attitude persists, then the tensions between management, the workforce and unions will continue to rise.

“Unite’s concerns over the Scottish Government’s education reform agenda also continue to grow because there remains zero clarity for the workforce over the day to day working of any new body.”

A spokesperson for the SQA said:

"We are pleased that the membership of both Unite and Unison have now accepted the improved two-year pay offer which brings industrial action to an end.

"SQA has operated in good faith throughout these negotiations, operating within the limits of public sector pay policy.

"The improved pay offer was made possible when the Scottish Government gave us flexibility and funding last week to operate beyond these limits.

"We will now seek to move forward together and focus on delivering for Scotland’s learners."


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