British Columbia

B.C. teachers contract dispute heats up

The two sides in the B.C. teachers contract dispute are crossing swords again, with the teachers' union going to court to have the mediator dismissed while the employers are asking that teachers be ordered to resume their extracurricular activities.
Charles Jago is the former president of the University of Northern British Columbia. (UNBC)

The B.C. teachers dispute is heating up again, with employers seeking an order to stop teachers from dropping extra-curricular activities, and the teachers' union going to court to try to unseat the mediator appointed in the standoff.

Members of the B.C. Teachers Federation voted last month to withdraw from voluntary work such as team sports to protest legislation that ended their strike action and put the mediator in place.

The B.C. Public School Employers Association says this action violates the back-to-work legislation and constitutes an illegal strike.

The employers are asking the B.C. Labour Relations Board to order teachers to resume extra-curricular activities, including team sports, music and drama performances and attending student graduation ceremonies, as well as a range of administrative duties.

Bias alleged

Meanwhile, the Teachers Federation says it's gone to court to try to overturn the appointment of Charles Jago as mediator in the dispute.

President Susan Lambert says the federation will argue that because Jago helped draft portions of the Bill 22, the legislation that ended teachers’ job actions, he has a bias in favour of government and therefore isn't qualified to sit as an independent mediator in the ongoing dispute.

"He has no mediation background or experience. He had access to the legislation prior to it being tabled in the legislature," said Lambert.

No date for a court hearing has been set.

The BCTF had asked the B.C. Labour Relations Board to dismiss Jago for the same reasons, but the board ruled it did not have the authority to overrule the appointment because the position was created through a statute.

Jago, a former UNBC president, was appointed in March to try to find a mediated settlement to the ongoing contract dispute, after the province brought in legislation to end the teachers' strike and job action.

He has until the end of June to try to try to reach an agreement and if he can't strike a deal, he'll issue non-binding recommendations and the government has said it will pass legislation to settle the contract dispute.