Exam board staff add strike on GCSE results day

Fourth set of AQA strike dates includes further key results day

New strike dates involving staff at exam board AQA will coincide with the day later this month when students receive their GCSE grades, says UNISON today (Friday).

This is the fourth round of action to be announced in the long-running dispute regarding pay and fire and rehire threats to staff, says the union.

The 180 workers​, including staff in customer services ​who would normally take calls from schools, parents and pupils on results day, will take action from Wednesday 24 to Sunday 28 August.

These new dates are in addition to those already announced that will see AQA staff on strike next week from Wednesday to Sunday (17 to 21 August). A level results are published on Thursday 18 August.

Exam board employees are also striking from today until Monday (12 to 15 August). The first round of action took place the weekend before last (29 to 31 July​).

UNISON says the latest strikes could cause issues for schools, which receive the GSCE results on Wednesday 24 August, and students who find out their grades the following day. Customer services, remarking enquiries and investigations into missing results will be affected by the strikes, says the union.

The union says ​staff have been left with no option after senior managers at the exam board refused to improve a pay offer of 3% and threatened staff with being fired and re-hired on inferior contracts.

​Wages ​at AQA increased last year by just 0.6%​ and this year’s offer is less than a third of the current lowest measure of inflation (9.4%​), says the union. UNISON says the dispute will only end if AQA agrees to talk to its staff, but the exam board refuses to do so.

UNISON ​North West regional manager Vicky Knight said: “​Last year staff were given a meagre wage rise. AQA employees are struggling to make ends meet and simply cannot afford to accept the miserly pay award on offer.

“On top of this, AQA is threatening dismissal and re-engagement if staff don’t accept. Threatening the dreadful practice of fire and rehire is no way to make progress in a dispute. AQA managers must come back to the table and discuss a fair resolution.”

A striking AQA worker said: “’The longer this goes on, the more determined my colleagues are becoming. Managers are using aggressive fire and rehire tactics to intimidate staff, which doesn’t help anyone.”

Another said: “The fire and rehire scare threat hasn’t landed well with anyone. Exam board executives say most staff have signed the new contracts but only because they’ve been intimidated into doing so.”

Another AQA employee taking part in the dispute said: “GCSE results week is always a busy time. The fact staff are prepared to strike, knowing the impact this will have on young people, shows how bad things have become.

“No one wants to take this action, but AQA managers need to know that they can’t expect staff to get by on a pitiful wage rise, nor can they continue to treat staff so badly.”

Notes to editors​:
– A memo dated 28 June circulated by AQA said that those who don’t accept the inferior terms could lead the company to “dismiss and reengage the colleagues on new terms and conditions”.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.