Staff at the country’s largest exam board AQA will go on strike for three days later this month, with a union warning it could disrupt GCSE and A-level exam results.
Unison said today strike action in a row over pay will go ahead, with plans for a walkout between Friday 29 and Sunday 31 July.
The union says it has 180 members, including some staff involved in the awarding of grades, and that the action “could affect the delivery of thousands of GCSE and A-level results”.
But an AQA spokesperson said it had “robust plans in place” to ensure any industrial action did not stop students getting their results on time.
“It’s a shame that Unison is claiming otherwise, as this is wrong and only serves needlessly to alarm students and teachers.”
Lizanne Devonport, regional organiser for the union in the north-west, said staff had been left with “no other option” than the walkout, plans of which were first revealed by FE Week’s sister publication, Schools Week.
She said a three per cent pay offer “isn’t a wage rise, it’s a pay cut with costs spiralling”.
“Workers only strike as a last resort. They’d rather be doing the job they’re proud of. They don’t want to disrupt students and know how important exam results are to them.”
Workers were given just days to accept the offer, or face a “fire and rehire” scenario, Unison claimed.
But an AQA spokesperson said it was offering an “affordable” pay rise higher than many other organisations, with the average pay increase standing at 5.6 per cent – as staff will also receive a pro rata £500 payment. Those below the top of their bands will see incremental increases.
The lowest-paid staff will receive higher pay offers, he added. He also noted the ballot only included around 160 members, when AQA had around 1,200 staff overall.
He claimed most staff did not support the action, adding: “Nearly nine out of ten of our staff have already opted in to our new pay framework and agreed to the pay rise, including many Unison members, so it’s hard to see what this strike is trying to achieve.”
Unison said 71 per cent of voters backed industrial action and minimum turnout rules were reached. But AQA said “well under half of Unison’s own members” did not back the action overall, as only 56 per cent voted at all.