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Staff at exam body to strike on exam results day

Staff at the Scottish Qualifications Authority will take three days of strike action Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA

Staff at Scotland’s exam body are to strike on three dates, including exam results day, in a dispute over the organisation’s restructuring.

The Unite union said the restructuring process at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has left a number of workers without specific job roles and others in roles that they are not best suited to.

It said that 62 workers have been approved for voluntary redundancy as part of the restructuring process and fears that extra responsibilities will now be added to the “depleted workforce”.

The union suspended industrial action in May on the basis of an Acas agreement, but stated that if significant progress was not made it would trigger the 14-day legal notification for industrial action based on the mandate it received in May.

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Unite members voted by 90% for strike action on an 80.5% turnout, while 94.7% voted for industrial action short of a strike.

Its members will strike on June 26, July 22 and August 6 – which is exam results day, while an overtime ban will be in place in the week leading up to August 6.

The SQA said it is “fully committed to ensuring that candidates receive their results on time”.

Alison MacLean, Unite regional industrial officer, said: “The situation beggars belief, the workforce are already stressed, demoralised and dismayed.

“Now to add insult to injury, staff may now be expected to pick up additional work. Unite will now hold our first ever industrial action starting on 26 June and this will be ongoing.

“There will also be an overtime ban in place in the week leading up to 6 August which is exam results day in Scotland.

“Let’s be crystal clear here, this dispute has been created, directed and exacerbated at every turn by SQA mismanagement and incompetence of the highest order.

“Unless immediate action is taken to address our members’ legitimate concerns then more days of action will be inevitable.”

The SQA said that under the auspices of Acas it agreed a positive way forward with the Unite union, agreeing a detailed action plan which “continues to be delivered”.

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An SQA spokesman said: “We are committed to working in partnership with the Unite union and have made significant progress on the process that is undertaken in a restructure.

“We are also committed to listen to, and address, the important issues that have been raised by its members. We are focused on relationship building and moving forward, together, into the future.

“The SQA is fully committed to ensuring that candidates receive their results on time. We have an established governance framework in place, where progress and risks are managed, supported by robust contingency plans.

“SQA has also concluded its Voluntary Early Release (VER) scheme. As an organisation we continue to evolve our products and services to meet the changing needs of our stakeholders and customers, such as the need to make cost efficiencies.

“The VER scheme was introduced as part of our response to these changing needs.

“The scheme has also created opportunities for employees to be considered for voluntary early release from the organisation with financial compensation, where this is of mutual benefit to the employee and to SQA.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:  “Strike action would not be in the interests of anybody, least of all Scotland’s young people who have worked so hard to achieve the qualifications they deserve.

“I discussed this with the Chair and current Chief Executive of SQA last night and made explicitly clear that I expect the 2019 Diet to be delivered on schedule, with no adverse implications for young people.

“I expect SQA and Unite to work to reach a successful resolution.”