The BC Teachers’ Federation this morning has made application to the Labour Relations Board seeking to have the appointment of Dr. Charles Jago as mediator in the current labour dispute quashed.
On April 2, BCTF President Susan Lambert wrote to Dr. Jago respectfully requesting that he step down as mediator, citing numerous factors that create an apprehension of bias. One day later, Dr. Jago wrote back, saying he declined to withdraw.
Despite Dr. Jago’s assurances of his impartiality, the BCTF remains unsatisfied that he could reasonably be viewed as impartial. Therefore the BCTF has gone to the LRB. “This government has legislated a biased process and appointed a mediator who not only lacks experience, but evidently lacks impartiality as well,” Lambert said.
The BCTF is concerned about a 2006 report on public education in BC done by Dr. Jago on commission to former Premier Gordon Campbell’s Progress Board. The report’s findings clearly foreshadow positions taken by the BC Public School Employers’ Association at the bargaining table and also reflect policy directions laid out in Bill 22. “Obviously there is a strong linkage between Dr. Jago’s thinking, and the bargaining and policy objectives of this government,” Lambert said.
The BCTF is also deeply troubled by the fact that, according to Dr. Jago, Deputy Education Minister James Gorman first approached him about taking on the mediation role in early February, at which time Dr. Jago tentatively accepted. This agreement was reached long before Education Minister George Abbott asked the BCTF for suggestions as to who teachers thought might successfully mediate the dispute. The BCTF suggested Justice Stephen Kelleher or Justice Ian Donald, both senior judges with extensive experience in labour relations and mediation.
Also in early February, and equally disturbing, Dr. Jago told BCTF representatives that he was given the opportunity to review and “to wordsmith” a draft of Bill 22 before it was tabled in the Legislature. He agreed, even though this was the very legislation he would later be expected to interpret impartially as a mediator. Abbott publicly announced Dr. Jago’s appointment on March 28. The BCTF learned about the appointment from media reports, not from the minister himself.
“Clearly there is a reasonable apprehension of bias here,” Lambert said. “What faith can teachers put in this mock mediation process, which is already so fundamentally skewed against us?”
To read the full text of Lambert’s letter to Dr. Jago and his reply, see: http://www.bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/Public/BargainingContracts/2012-04-02-BCTF-JagoLtr.pdf