School pupils face a 'major impact' on their exams as a union announces it will take lengthy industrial action over a 'brutal' real-terms pay cut.

Around 400 Unite members at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) will begin action this week after what the union described as an "unacceptable" pay offer.

The SQA has offered a two-year deal for 2023 and 2024 which the union says would amount to a substantial real-terms pay cut.

Unite says the majority of its members have been offered no more than 5.75% in 2023 and 3.15% for 2024 against an inflation rate of 13.8% for the pay period in February last year.

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Staff will strike for 24 hours on February 23 and 29, while a ban on weekend work and overtime, as well as accruing time off in lieu will apply from February 16 to May 10.

Unite believes the industrial action will have a ‘major impact’ on the SQA’s ability to prepare for the student exam season.

The union said its action will cause disruption to the external verification process, which will have an impact on the quality assurance and awarding of qualifications, and disruption to coursework marking for Nat 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses.

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Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Unite’s SQA members are being forced by senior management to take industrial action. The pay offer on the table represents a brutal pay cut and it’s totally unacceptable.

“Unite will support our members all the way in the fight for better jobs, pay and conditions at the SQA.”

Unite members supported strike action by 72% on an 80% turnout.

Alison Maclean, Unite industrial officer, said: "Unite has attempted to resolve this dispute through negotiation. We have nonetheless hit a brick wall because SQA management are just incapable of listening to our members’ fair pay aspirations.

Disappointingly but predictably Scottish government ministers have also run for cover claiming the dispute has got nothing to do with them when they are the paymasters.

“The industrial action will have a major impact on the coursework marking and external verification process. The blame for any disruption lies entirely with the SQA’s intractable management and the Scottish government’s inaction.”

A SQA spokesperson said: “This is nothing more than scaremongering by Unite. We have robust contingency plans in place and we can reassure learners that there will be no impact on their coursework, exams or grades.

“We made an increased pay offer that fairly recognises the valuable work of our SQA colleagues. It represents a total average increase of 7.43% in year one and a further total average rise of 5.19% in year two, including pay progression. It is the best offer possible which is affordable and within the limits of the Public Sector Pay Strategy.”