Province moves to make exams, report cards essential services

Province moves to make exams, report cards essential services

METRO VANCOUVER — The B.C. Public School Employers Association has applied to the Labour Relations Board to designate Grade 10 to 12 exams and report cards for secondary students as essential services.

Earlier this week, Education Minister Peter Fassbender promised parents that exams and final marks would go ahead, but he said he wasn’t sure how he would make it happen.

Friday’s letter of application to vary the existing essential service order asks the board to designate supervising and marking exams and recording final marks as essential services.

“The basis for this application is the serious and immediate damage which would be caused to the education programs of secondary students if they are not able to complete end of year examinations (both provincial and school based), to have these examinations marked, and to ensure that final grades be compiled and entered into the relevant systems,” the letter states.

The results for Grade 12 students are necessary to enable graduation, to complete registration of students into post-secondary schools, to determine scholarship eligibility or to enter the workforce, the letter states. For Grade 10 and 11 students, the assessments are necessary to determine if students are ready to move to the next grade and “final grades based only on work to date may skew grade results unfairly, resulting in potentially inaccurate, and unfair assessments of student progress.”

The application also asks the board to say that designating new special needs students and getting payrolls ready on time are essential services.

The essential services order governing the teachers’ job action says any decision on variance will be made within 48 hours of referral to the board. The order defines as essential those services that prevent serious danger to the health, safety or welfare of people or that immediately and seriously disrupt the provision of educational programs.

Teachers have been on rotating strikes, closing schools one day each week in each district, since May 26. Parents and students should know by about 8 p.m. Tuesday evening whether teachers will be on a full strike the following week.

Voting will take place Monday and Tuesday, although some advance polls were already open on Friday. Teachers will be voting whether to strike knowing they will not be paid for any days they walk the picket line. As The Vancouver Sun reported yesterday, the union told its members its strike pay fund is running dry.

“The impact on the (Collective Bargaining Defence Fund) after 12 years of defending teachers’ rights on so many fronts, and such a prolonged struggle to make gains since the contract stripping in 2002 has been significant,” the BCTF said in an memo to its members. “The CBDF is able to finance up to three days of strike pay (as of June sixth we have already incurred two days of strike pay), after which the CBDF will not have the necessary funds to cover additional strike pay days that may well be necessary in order to achieve a collective agreement.”

A BCTF memo seen by The Vancouver Sun Friday says that teachers were asked at the BCTF’s annual general meeting to change its strike pay formula to give a lower amount at first, increasing with the number of days on strike, but that plan was not approved. At that meeting teachers also agreed to increase the portion of their dues that goes to this fund for next year to build the fund up again. In response to the rotating strikes, the employer instituted a partial lockout, which restricts teachers from working during recess or lunch hours, or from arriving at school any earlier than 45 minutes before classes start, or staying 45 minutes after they end and includes a 10-per-cent pay cut. The LRB ruled Wednesday that the lockout is legal, and teachers have not yet decided if they will appeal the decision or refer it to arbitration. The employer is offering a 7.3-per-cent wage increase over six years. Teachers on Tuesday reduced their wage demand by one per cent, now calling for 9.75 plus a portion of cost of living over four years.

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