Staff at the AQA exam board are to stage a 72-hour walkout over pay, which union leaders have warned could affect the delivery of thousands of GCSE and A-Level results.
Members of Unison who work for the board will walk out for three days, from July 29 to July 31, in protest over pay, the union said. They include around 180 of AQA’s 1,200 employees involved in the processing and distribution of results.
Many of the staff involved say they are struggling to make ends meet following successive below-inflation pay awards, Unison said. Staff were given an increase of 0.6 per cent last year, with three per cent offered this year – which the union has said is a real-terms pay cut.
AQA said that while all staff will receive a minimum three per cent increase in pay, the average pay increase will be 5.6 per cent, representing its biggest annual pay rise for at least two decades.
‘No other option’
Lizanne Devonport, a Unison official, said the workers had been left with “no other option” but to strike, adding: “Pay has been falling behind prices for years and three per cent isn’t a wage rise – with costs spiralling, it’s a pay cut. Things are so bad staff are fearful they will no longer be able to make ends meet.
“Workers only strike as a last resort. They’d rather be doing the jobs that they’re proud of. They don’t want to disrupt students and know how important exam results are to them.”
The AQA workers involved in the dispute work in England. Unison warned that the industrial action is “likely to escalate” unless AQA reopens talks.
The exam board insisted it had “robust plans in place” to make sure any strike action does not impact students getting their results on time. “It’s a shame that Unison is claiming otherwise, as this is wrong and only serves needlessly to alarm students and teachers,” a spokesman said.
‘We don’t want to disadvantage candidates’
One AQA worker told Unison: “The wider public don’t necessarily get to see the work that goes on behind the scenes, but we delivered an exemplary service that was required even during the pandemic, and don’t think that is being fairly rewarded.
“We don’t want to disadvantage candidates. We value them and want them to succeed, but we have been trying to get a fair deal for months and have not been listened to.”
Another said: “The strike will hurt me financially but I’m willing to do that because this deal is so poor.”
An AQA spokesman said: “We’re giving our people a pay rise that’s affordable and higher than many organisations, so it’s disappointing that Unison has decided to take strike action. The vast majority of our staff don’t support a strike, as only around five per cent of our workforce and well under half of Unison’s own members voted for it.
“Indeed, nearly nine out of 10 of our staff have already opted in to our new pay framework and agreed to the pay rise, including many Unison members, so it’s hard to see what this strike is trying to achieve.”