The governmental appointment of Dr. Charles Jago as the mediator between the B.C. Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) comes as no surprise to Matt Pearce, president of the Prince George Teachers Association, but he said it is still disappointing.
“It’s not a surprise. He’s well connected with the Liberals without a background in labour mediation. Anyone with a reputation in mediation wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole,” he said.
However, in a media teleconference Jago said he has engaged in negotiations before, though not a contract dispute, and he has a lot of experience in problem solving and consensus building.
“I do have related skills,” he said, adding a trained mediator hasn’t worked up until this point. “I think I’m the right person for the job. I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think the government was justified in the choice it made.”
However, he admits it will be a difficult endeavour.
“I described it as mission impossible. There are enormous barriers. There is a sorry record of negotiations going back 20 years,” he said.
He said when he was approached to take on the job he first gave it careful consideration and discussed the scope of his role with the government.
“I wanted to be assured it was not a sham,” he said. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought there was no hope.”
He pointed out he has a reputation of taking on complex and far reaching tasks like the northern medical program and the cancer care centre now under construction in Prince George.
“I do have a record of taking on major issues,” he said.
As for ties to the Liberals, which includes donations to the party, Jago said it amounted to about $1,000 used to pay the way of a couple of friends and himself into a golf tournament.
“I think people who’ve worked with me in the past can say I’m very independent,” he said.
Jago said he will be in contact with both parties either later this week or early next week.
Gaining the respect of the parties involved and getting a sense of the mandates are important first tasks, he said.
“I would want to assure the BCTF that I would want to listen to them. I would want to respond to them,” he said.
However, gaining the trust of the parties involved may be an overwhelming hurdle.
“Dr. Jago’s job is to strip elements out of the collective agreement,” Pearce said. “We will be challenging that in court.”