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British Columbia Teachers' union required to attend sessions despite request to oust mediator

British Columbia Teachers' Federation President Susan Lambert on Thursday March 1, 2012.

Darryl Dyck For The Globe and Mail/darryl dyck The Globe and Mail

The B.C. Labour Relations Board has turned down an application from the teachers' union that it not be required to attend mediation sessions while the board weighs its request to have the mediator ousted from his role.

In an April 18 decision, board associate chair Michael Fleming said the he was not persuaded that there was a "critical labour relations purpose" for granting the interim relief sought by the British Columbia Teachers' Federation.

"I am not persuaded BCTF will suffer any irreparable harm if it attends mediation sessions with [Dr. Charles]Jago, even assuming that ultimately its application to have his appointment quashed were to succeed," Mr. Fleming wrote in the decision.

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"I find that the harm of having to attend mediation sessions with a mediator whom the BCTF may consider to be biased or otherwise unsuitable can ultimately be adequately remedied by an order quashing the appointment."

Citing bias and a flawed process, the BCTF on April 5 asked the LRB to quash the appointment of Dr. Jago, who was named mediator in a long-running dispute between teachers and the province on March 28.

The province says the LRB doesn't have jurisdiction in the matter.

The LRB is weighing arguments from both sides, but in the meantime, mediation sessions have been scheduled in April and May.

The BCTF wanted those sessions to be postponed while the jurisdictional question was resolved. The LRB denied the union's application for an interim order.

The wrangle over Dr. Jago – an academic and former president of the University of Northern B.C. – is one knot in a tangle of disputes on the education front.

This week, the BCTF and the province's bargaining agent, the B.C. Public School Employers' Association, were in front of the LRB in another hearing related to report cards. The dispute in that hearing centres around when report cards must be issued and whether they would contain information and grades dating back to the beginning of the school year. That hearing continues.

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Also this week, teachers are voting on a province-wide plan to fight Bill 22, education legislation that was passed last month and ended teachers' strike action. Results of that vote are expected Friday.

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