Neil Worboys, VHS 1962 Lifelong Education Advocate

Neil Worboys, VHS 1962    Lifelong Education Advocate

By Gerald W. Pash, VHS 1962


Neil Worboys, VHS 1962 has been an advocate for British Columbia’s education system throughout his entire life. Initially as the President of the Victoria High School Student Council 1961-62 and later as President of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, Neil has profoundly influenced education in B.C.

NEIL WORBOYS—Our amiable Council President, Neil is an active member of the Alpha Hi-Y, and one of Div. 3’s melodious Grad Choir types. He was an outstanding player on both the victorious Totems and the Senior Soccer Teams. After graduation Neil plans to team up with that redhead in Pharmacy. [Neil was also a Prefect.]

At Vic High, Neil was a member of the BC Championship Totems Basketball team, the Colonist Cup-winning Tyees Senior Boys’ Soccer team, and a member of the Senior Boys’ Rugby team that won the Howard Russell Cup. Apparently he was also a Prefect, in Alpha Hi-Y, and in the Grad Choir. Busy guy!

 He attended Victoria College and then transferred to the University of BC School of Pharmacy and later the Faculty of Science, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Zoology in 1968.  During his studies, he played basketball with the Vancouver CYO Saints that won the Junior Men’s Canadian championship in 1964. Like many students of the day, Neil then took a gap year after graduating from UBC. He worked at Alcan in Kitimat and hitchhiked around Europe with Doug Cashin, VHS 1962. After a year of teacher training, he was hired to teach science and biology at Mount Elizabeth Secondary School in Kitimat where he coached basketball, soccer and wrestling and in 1975 was appointed head of the science department.

In the late 1970’s he took an active role in the BC Teacher’s Federation as chair of the Provincial Collective Bargaining Committee.  With a four-year leave of absence from teaching in 1986 he took employment at the BCTF head office in Vancouver to implement the BC Government’s legislation that allowed teachers to unionize and establish a collective bargaining procedure.  He returned to teaching in Kitimat in 1990. In 1996 he pursued the political side of the BCTF when he was elected to the Executive Committee as a member at large.  In 2000 he was elected to First Vice President and became President in 2002, a position he held for two years.

A change in government in 2001 heralded a tumultuous time in British Columbia Schools. The Provincial Government nullified portions of the teachers’ collective agreement related to class size, composition, and specialty teachers and simultaneously moved to take control of the BC College of Teachers thereby removing teachers’ role as self-governing professionals.

During his time with the BCTF, Neil led the teachers’ opposition to legislation changing working conditions.  He challenged the government’s imposition of a contract that included a three-year wage freeze benefit improvement or professional development.  He advocated for the restoration of local bargaining; arguing that the provincial system was not working for teachers or students.  He supported the teachers’ right to strike and defended teachers’ civil disobedience and refusal to pay the fines imposed by the Labour Relations Board.  Primarily, he promoted the importance of public education and the role of teachers in society and spoke out against government policies that favoured privatization and standardization. Moreover, he fostered a collaborative and democratic culture within the BCTF and encouraged the involvement of members in decision-making and advocacy.  He also maintained good relations with other unions and education stakeholders.   He was a sought-after participant in national and international forums on education issues.

Retiring in 2004, Neil lives in Qualicum Beach with Jackie whom he met in Kitimat and married 52 years ago.  In retirement, he has enjoyed playing basketball at the World Masters level earning silver medals in Australia (2009) and Italy (2013), last playing in New Zealand (2017).  He also plays competitive soccer at the 55+ level and last year traveled to Denmark to play in an over 75 World Tournament.  For the past decade,  he has participated with three other seniors in an annual wilderness adventure where they are flown into an area by helicopter and spend a week with wildlife. He serves the community as a director of the Qualicum Beach Stream Keepers, and the Qualicum Beach Community Garden Society.