EXAM markers have voted to take strike action in a move which will "severely delay tens of thousands" of appeals, it has been confirmed.  

Figures show that 86.7% of Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) workers supported taking industrial action on a 78.9% turnout whilst 95.9% of members voted to take action short of a strike.

Unite - which reprensents SQA staff - confirmed three days of strike action would take place on September 8, 15 and 16. 

The union's general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite’s SQA members have emphatically supported strike action due to a derisory pay offer which is worth as low as 1.7% for some workers. 

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“There are serious concerns over education reform in Scotland, and specifically what this means for the jobs of our members going forward. 

“These concerns have in no way, shape or form been addressed. Unite will always defend our members’ jobs, pay and conditions.”

An overtime ban and ban of accrual of time off in lieu will also come into effect from September 8 to November 30.

The SQA will confirm the results of priority appeals to Ucas on September 6. In terms of standard appeals, the service opened on August 9 and the deadline for centres to submit these is September 2. 

Industrial action will cause disruption to this process with the trade union estimating that up to 22,000 standard appeals could be ‘severely delayed’.

In a consultative ballot in July, Unite announced that 95% of its SQA members had rejected a ‘derisory’ pay offer which is worth between 1.7% to 4% depending on the grading of a job. 

The broader measure of inflation (RPI) has now soared to hit a 40-year high at 12.3%.

Unite industrial officer Alison MacLean said: “Tens of thousands of student appeals will be severely delayed by Unite’s industrial action at the SQA. 

“Our members are disillusioned, frustrated and angry. Not only have they been offered a brutal real terms pay cut but they have in effect been locked-out of the ongoing discussions surrounding education reform.”

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Unite has written to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley-Anne Somerville to repeat its concerns over consultations between the SQA and Scottish Government and trade unions. 

They further reiterated concerns about the proposed disbanding of the SQA, and the lack of assurances over job roles and locations as well as the conditions and pay of the existing workforce in a new organisation. 

MacLean added: “Meaningful dialogue and an opportunity for staff to shape the discussions was promised to us in light of the vast experience of our members. 

“Hundreds of workers could see their job roles and conditions being significantly altered yet none of us are any the wiser on what this proposed reform will mean on a day-to-day basis.”

Plans are in place for three new national bodies to be created in a bid to refom examinations in Scotland. 

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These include a qualifications body, a national agency for Scottish education and an independent inspection body.

The Scottish Government has given a commitment to delivering an operating model for these new bodies by the winter of 2022 with the organisations to be fully operational by 2024. 

Unite believes it would be impossible for the new operating model to be in place later this year without the legitimate concerns of its members being addressed. 

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "While this is a matter for the SQA as the employer, we remain in close contact with them to ensure that resolution talks resume. 

"We hope that any potential disruption can be avoided through further negotiation. 

"The Scottish Government remains committed to ensuring that workers' rights are protected throughout the process of Education Reform and when the SQA is replaced by a new qualifications body. 

"We will continue to engage with the SQA management, staff and unions to try to address the concerns raised."

A spokesperson for the SQA said they "fully recognise" the impact of the cost of living crisis and confirmed they remain in "close dialogue" with trade unions to secure a pay deal. 

They added: "As a public sector employer funded by the Scottish Government, we are working with the Scottish Government to seek agreement to improve our pay offer.

"We are very disappointed that industrial action has been called before the dispute resolution process has concluded. 

"However, as always our primary focus is on learners, and it is important to stress that anyone waiting for the outcome of a priority appeal to secure a university place or job will be unaffected."