Trustees demand voice in teacher negotiations

Trustee Terry Allen - Leader file photo
Trustee Terry Allen
— image credit: Leader file photo

As the dispute between B.C. teachers and the province heats up further, Surrey school board trustees say they've grown increasingly frustrated that they have no say in how their employees teachers are treated.

Trustees voted last week to demand Minister of Education Peter Fassbender return trustee representatives to the BC Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA) board and that a government-appointed administrator be removed.

Last August, the B.C. government replaced elected trustees on the board of BCPSEA (the agency bargaining on behalf of the provincial government) with appointee Michael Marchbank.

The effect, says Trustee Terry Allen, is that elected boards of education no longer have a voice during negotiations with the teachers' union.

"We've had no say in rolling our employees' wages back 10 per cent and we're the employer," said Allen. "We've had no say whether they're locked out or partially locked out. It's become very, very frustrating."

Allen said he attended a meeting with BCPSEA, believing there might be an opportunity to express Surrey's concerns, but was instead told how things would play out.

Under the new structure, BCPSEA is "dictating" what will happen, said Allen, leaving boards to deal with the consequences.

"It's totally inappropriate. We should at least have access or be able to make verbal comments to the bargaining committee. As it sits right now, there's none of that. None at all," Allen said.

"Our teachers are being told what's going to happen to them, I would assume they believe by their employer, and I can assure you it has nothing to do with the employer. This is strictly from the government appointees."

Following the appointment of Marchbank (and removal of trustee reps) in August, Fassbender denied he was setting up a "showdown" with teachers that would shut down schools and turn the public against unions. Instead, he said, the structural change was needed to achieve stability for students and parents as promised by Premier Christy Clark.


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