Staff at the country’s largest exam board AQA have voted in favour of strike action over pay, in a move a union claimed could delay exam results.
Unison, which represents around 160 staff at the organisation, said 71 per cent of those who voted in a recent ballot supported industrial action. A turnout threshold of 50 per cent, needed to win ballots for strike action, was also reached, the union said.
All eyes are now on Unite, which also represents staff at AQA and is also considering a ballot. The exam board has around 1,200 staff in total.
Schools Week revealed the ballot was to take place last week. The unions have rejected a 3 per cent pay increase plus a £500 payment for staff, claiming the charity is “failing its staff and pupils by holding down pay”.
AQA said pay rises would actually average 5.6 per cent, with staff not currently at the top of their pay grades also receiving an incremental increase.
Workers were given just days to accept the offer, or face a “fire and rehire” scenario, Unison claimed. New data last week showed inflation at 9.1 per cent, a 40-year high.
Unison north west regional organiser Lizanne Devonport said: “No one takes a decision lightly that could cause disruption to pupils.
“But staff have demonstrated they’re clearly unhappy with the way they’re being treated and are prepared to take action. The union will now discuss the results with the employer and branch before a decision is made about the next steps.”
A spokesperson for AQA said it was “giving our people a pay rise that’s affordable and higher than many organisations, so it’s disappointing we haven’t been able to reach an agreement with the unions”.
“It’s clear that Unison doesn’t speak for the vast majority of our staff, as only around 5 per cent of our workforce and well under half their own members have voted for industrial action.”
They said the board had made “exceptional concessions – so, after a lengthy dispute resolution process, we’re finally able to give our people the pay rise they’ve been waiting for since April, to help with rising living costs”.
Unison claimed last week that any industrial action at the height of the exam-marking period this summer could delay results.
But AQA said it had “plans in place to make sure any industrial action wouldn’t affect” results.
“It’s a shame that Unison is claiming otherwise, as this is wrong and only serves to needlessly frighten students and teachers.”
Of 163 AQA staff entitled to vote in the Unison ballot, 91 voted, of whom 65 voted in favour and 26 against.