B.C. teachers want mediator to step down

Union files application to labour board after mediator refuses to resign
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 04/09/2012

The union representing B.C. teachers is asking the Labour Relations Board (LRB) to dismiss the mediator appointed in its ongoing labour dispute with the government.

Charles Jago, the mediator chosen to settle the dispute, has an “apprehension of bias” and should have his appointment “quashed,” according to the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF).

“This government has legislated a biased process and appointed a mediator who not only lacks experience, but evidently lacks impartiality as well,” BCTF president Susan Lambert said in a statement.

Lambert wrote to Jago on April 2 requesting he step down as mediator; however, he declined to withdraw in a written response the following day. The union made its application to the LRB after receiving his response.

The union also claims Jago assisted in drafting the legislation that suspended the teachers’ job action. Jago told BCTF representatives he was given the opportunity to review and “wordsmith” a draft of Bill 22 before it was tabled in the Legislature, according to the union.

That claim was disputed by Minister of Education George Abbott last week.

“Apparently there was some suggestion that Dr. Jago had a hand in the construction of Bill 22,” Abbott said. “That is absolutely incorrect and if the BCTF are operating on that premise, it is a faulty premise.”

The minister also denied union allegations that Jago was inexperienced as a mediator.

“He is the right person for the job,” he said in the statement. “I haven’t seen the BCTF’s application to the LRB — but I am sure the board will deal with it in due course as it is now a matter before the LRB.”

B.C.’s teachers have been without a contract since June 2011. The 41,000 teachers began a “work to rule” campaign last September before mounting a three-day full-scale walkout in March. The government immediately responded by passing Bill 22, which limits their right to strike.

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