Thousands of exam appeals are set to be “severely” delayed after Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) staff voted overwhelmingly for strikes.

Bosses at the Unite union said 86.7 per cent of its SQA members had backed the action in response to a “derisory” pay offer that would deliver a rise of only 1.7% for some employees. Turnout in the ballot was just under 79%, with 95.9% backing action short of strikes.

Walkouts have been scheduled for September 8, 15 and 16, while bans on overtime and accrual of time off in lieu will be in place from September 8 until November 30. 

It is estimated the move will disrupt up to 22,000 standard appeals and that this figure could rise. Outcomes for priority appeals, which are required for immediate progression to university, college, training or employment, are due to be issued before the first planned day of industrial action.

The latest development, which follows a consultative ballot, comes amid staff anger over levels of consultation on reforms that will see the SQA replaced. 

READ MORE: Turmoil as one in 10 Scots exam board staff quit as union launches strike ballot over pay

Alison MacLean, Unite industrial officer, 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.

“Meaningful dialogue and an opportunity for staff to shape the discussions were 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.”

Sharon Graham, the union’s general secretary, added: “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.” 

HeraldScotland: Exam results in 2022 were down compared with 2020 and 2021.Exam results in 2022 were down compared with 2020 and 2021.

The strike vote is the latest example of a wave of industrial unrest that is sweeping society as the cost of living soars.

It also comes after exam results for 2022 revealed A-C pass rates at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher level were well down on 2020 and 2021, when teacher judgement-based alternative certification determined grades. 

Amid sharp rises in pupil and staff absence due to the Omicron Covid variant, SQA bosses said previously that this year’s outcomes would mark an “intermediary position” between 2019 and 2021. However, although overall attainment at grades A to C rose compared with 2019, the increases, particularly at National 5 and Advanced Higher level, were modest. A-grade attainment also fell sharply across several subjects between 2021 and this year. 

Appeal statistics for 2022 will be published once the process has fully completed. But Unite’s early figures - which show more than 20,000 standard requests have been lodged since the service opened on August 9 - suggest demand for grade reviews is strong.

READ MORE: 'Winter of discontent' warning as Scots council strikes hitting schools and waste collection to spread

An SQA spokesman said: “We fully recognise the impact that the cost of living is having on staff and remain in close dialogue with the trade unions with a view to reaching a fair outcome on pay.

"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 at the prospect of industrial action that inevitably will be detrimental to the interests of the learners we serve – and at the fact it has been called before the dispute resolution process has concluded. We continue to focus on delivering for learners, including the processing of appeals which is currently underway.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “While this is a matter for 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 SQA management, staff and unions to try to address the concerns raised.”