AQA exam board staff are to stage a 72-hour strike over pay, which union leaders say could affect the delivery of thousands of GCSE and A-Level results.
Unison members who work for the board will stand down for three days, from July 29 to July 31, to protest wages, the union said. They bring together approximately 180 of the 1,200 AQA employees involved in the processing and dissemination of results.
Many of the staff involved say they are struggling to make ends meet after successive awards of below-inflation salaries, Unison said. Staff received a 0.6% raise last year, with 3% offered this year – which the union says is a pay cut in real terms.
AQA said that while all staff will receive a minimum pay increase of 3%, the average pay increase will be 5.6%, which is its biggest annual pay increase in at least two decades.
“No other option”
Lizanne Devonport, a Unison official, said workers had “no choice” but to strike, adding: “Wages have lagged prices for years and 3% is not a pay rise – with skyrocketing costs, that’s a pay cut. Things are so bad that the staff are afraid that they will no longer be able to make ends meet.
“Workers strike only as a last resort. They prefer to do work they are proud of. They don’t want to upset students and know how important exam results are to them. »
The AQA workers involved in the dispute work in England. Unison has warned that industrial action is “likely to intensify” unless the AQA reopens talks.
The exam board insisted it had ‘sound plans’ in place to ensure any strike action does not affect students who get their results on time. “It’s too bad that Unison is claiming otherwise, as this is untrue and only serves to unnecessarily alarm students and teachers,” a spokesperson said.
“We do not want to disadvantage candidates”
An AQA employee told Unison: “The general public doesn’t necessarily see the work that goes on behind the scenes, but we provided exemplary service that was needed even during the pandemic, and I don’t think that be rewarded enough. .
“We don’t want to put candidates at a disadvantage. We appreciate them and want them to succeed, but we’ve been trying to get a fair deal for months and we haven’t been listened to.
Another said: “The strike is going to hurt me financially but I’m ready to do it because this deal is so poor.”
A spokesperson for the AQA said: “We are offering our employees an affordable pay raise that is higher than many organisations, so it is disappointing that Unison has decided to go on strike. The vast majority of our staff do not support a strike, as only around 5% of our workforce and well under half of Unison members voted in favor.
“Indeed, almost nine out of 10 of our staff have already opted into our new compensation framework and accepted the pay increase, including many Unison members, so it is hard to see what this strike is trying to do. to accomplish.”