Hundreds of administrators, IT specialists, qualifications officers and researchers at Scotland's exam body are set to hold three days of strike action in the coming months – including on 6 August, the day thousands of pupils are due to receive their exam results.
The staff – who are represented by the union Unite and will be striking on 26 June, 22 July and 6 August – will also be refusing to do overtime in the week leading up to results day.
Unite is in dispute with the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) over an internal restructuring process, which the union says has left a number of workers without specific job roles, and others in roles that they are not best suited to, but had no option but to accept to ensure continued job security.
Background: Strike action threat hanging over exams
Unite members have also raised concerns over modernisation of IT systems.
Alison MacLean, Unite regional industrial officer, said that industrial action had been suspended in May due to an agreement brokered by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas). However, she claimed that SQA management had “contrived to break the Acas agreement” and had failed to consult the union over staff redundancies.
SQA: 'Robust contingency plans'
According to Unite, 62 workers have been approved for voluntary redundancy, which is the equivalent to 8 per cent of the workforce. The union says it now fears that extra responsibilities will be added to the depleted workforce and a new restructuring process will be initiated.
Ms MacLean 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 union, agreeing a detailed action plan that “continues to be delivered”.
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.”