Abbotsford school board chair Shirley Wilson has been acclaimed as the Fraser Valley representative on the B.C. Public Schools Employers Association. (File photo)

Abbotsford school board chair Shirley Wilson has been acclaimed as the Fraser Valley representative on the B.C. Public Schools Employers Association. (File photo)

Abbotsford trustee ‘ecstatic’ union bargaining power returning to elected representatives

School trustees regaining control over employer association

The provincial NDP government has returned school trustees to the board that negotiates with public school unions.

The move will return elected representatives with important local knowledge to decision-making positions in the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA), according to its Fraser Valley representative, Shirley Wilson.

The B.C. Liberal government restructured the BCPSEA in 2013 and put Michael Marchbank, CEO of the Hospital Employers’ Association, in charge as its public administrator. Then-education minister Peter Fassbender said it was a temporary move in response to a demand by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) to bargain directly with the provincial government.

“I am absolutely ecstatic that the board of directors has been returned to the elected board trustees in the province,” said Wilson, Abbotsford’s school board chair.

Wilson was a member of the BCPSEA board when it was terminated and has served as an advisor since then. She was the only Fraser Valley trustee to stand for membership on the board and was aclaimed at the BCPSEA annual general meeting last week.

A total of seven trustees will sit on the restructured board, each representing different regions of the province: Kootenay Boundary, Northern Interior, Metro Vancouver, Northwest, Thompson Okanagan, Vancouver Island/Coastal and the Fraser Valley.

Wilson said each member will bring regional perspectives and knowledge of collective agreements between local board and unions.

“We have a greater understanding of the fabric of the province,” she said.

As an example, Wilson pointed to a recent grievance from the Abbotsford District Teachers’ Association against her district over school calendar scheduling. She said those experiences will inform her going into province-wide contract negotiations with the BCTF set to begin next year.

The board also handles compensation, WorkSafeBC claims, grievances, professional development and human resources issues “as they arise” at regular meetings, Wilson said.

“I think it’s important work because the most important factor in a child’s education is the person at the front of the classroom.”

She said the board positions previously came with a stipend of approximately $500 monthly but compensation has not yet been set for the newly restored board.

– with files from Tom Fletcher