examination room

First ever industrial action signalled at Scottish Qualifications Authority

Strike action set for SQA

Unite the union has today (13 June) confirmed that it will hold discontinuous strike action at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) on 26 June, 22 July and 6 August 2019.

In May, Unite agreed to suspend industrial action on the basis of an Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) negotiated framework agreement between both parties. The Acas framework agreement resulted in the SQA being committed to a series of measures designed to address the restructuring issues that contributed to the substantial lack of trust and confidence in SQA management. 

Unite stated that if significant progress was not made then it would trigger the 14 day legal notification for industrial action based on the mandate it received in May. Unite members voted by 90 per cent for strike action on an 80.5 per cent turnout, while 94.7 per cent voted for industrial action short of a strike.

The restructuring process which has led to the dispute 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 to accept to ensure continued job security. A separate collective grievance on the Business Systems (IT) restructure was also raised, the outcome of which was that Unite members’ concerns were valid and upheld.

As part of the restructuring process, the SQA launched a voluntary early release (redundancy) exercise which has recently concluded. 62 workers have been approved as part of this exercise, which is the equivalent to 8 per cent of the workforce. The exercise was concluded without proper or timely consultation with the trade unions in breach of the existing agreement with Unite. Unite now fears that extra responsibilities will be added to the depleted workforce and a new restructuring process will be initiated, which is the origins of the current dispute.

Unite also alleges that the Acas Agreement in May has been breached due a number of staff wanting to reconsider their original position to opt for voluntary redundancy on the basis that the ‘framework agreement‘ would ensure that all staff would be redeployed to a suitable position. At the juncture of the voluntary early release exercise this option was not viably on the table leading to a certain number of staff seeing no future at the SQA due to the restructuring process. The SQA stated position is that the agreement they have with the Scottish Government is that everyone accepted as part of the voluntary redundancy exercise must leave. However, a FOI request has established that this is not a Scottish government directive but a SQA management decision.

Alison MacLean, Unite regional industrial officer, said: “Unite suspended any industrial action, despite being given a resounding mandate, due to the Acas brokered agreement in May. However, this was predicated on the SQA fulfilling its commitments but management have now created a situation even worse than a few months ago. Management have broken the pre-existing agreement we had with them regarding consultation on any staff redundancies, and now they have contrived to break the Acas agreement which was established to avert industrial action.

“The situation beggars belief, the workforce is 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.”

ENDS

For more information Alison MacLean on 07793662077.

Notes to editors:

  • 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.

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