From education to employment

SQA dispute over as Unite members accept revised pay offer

strike sign

Union criticises ‘hostile’ management approach as it warns of more problems on the horizon

Unite the union can confirm today (5 March) that its 400 plus Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) membership have accepted an improved pay offer. 

A revised offer was put to the workforce late last week which led to a suspension in industrial action.  The revised offer which was accepted by Unite members will mean a 5.75 per cent pay increase in 2023, and 3.15 per cent for 2024 along with a £1,000 cash lump sum. This represents a significant improvement on the initial pay offer of 4.75 per cent for 2023 by the SQA. 

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.” 

Unite members took strike action on 23 February in addition to an overtime ban, a ban on weekend working and a ban on accruing time-off in lieu which came into effect on 16 February. The union is continuing to highlight its concerns over the ‘hostile attitude’ of the SQA’s senior management’s ‘towards staff and unions during this recent pay dispute. Unite stated that the dispute could have been resolved ‘months ago’ on the basis of a ‘willingness’ by the SQA to positively engage with the union.

Unite has also raised its ongoing concerns over the education body’s failure along with the Scottish government to meaningfully consult with unions on education reform. Unite has raised specific concerns over the scrapping 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, 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.” 

The union’s members work in all grades and job roles at the nation’s education qualifications body including administrators, managers, processors and researchers. The SQA is estimated to employ around 1,000 people. 

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