VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – A mediator being paid $2,000 a day has been appointed by the Ministry of Education to seek an end to the seven month old teachers dispute. But the teachers union says he’s the wrong man for the job.

BCTF President Susan Lambert fears Dr. Charles Jago is biased after it was revealed he made two donations to the BC Liberal Party through golf tournament fundraisers. He also commissioned a report in 2006 on the education system that Lambert claims was biased.

“He did comment on issues that are live at the table for the employer’s side, and that concerns me,” Lambert points out. “There seems to an apprehension of, or at least I have an apprehension of bias.”

“The terms and conditions of this mock mediation are so skewed as to have a pre-determined outcome,” she adds. “[The donations] concern me. This is a person who has ties to the Liberal party, doesn’t have experience in labour relations, is an academic researcher.”

Minister of Education George Abbott feels Jago is not biased, despite the donations.

“He said he had a principal of not making political donations and he’d observed that, but he did go on a couple of golf tournament and I guess those showed up as political contributions,” explains Abbott. “To me they’re a non-issue.”

Jago insists he is independent but Lambert won’t even call him by his title as mediator.

Still, she’s willing to come back to the table. “We will enter the process, we will talk to Dr. Jago about our objectives. I don’t know whether he can magically change what’s happened at the table over 78 sessions. I really don’t know.”

Jago admits he’s got his work cut out for him. “It would be naive to say that I feel the outcome is going to be instantaneously positive. It clearly requires the parties to be constructive, to be willing to engage, and to be open.”

“If you look at the record over the last 20 years there’s not a lot of reason to be hopeful,” he adds. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought there was no hope.”

Jago is a former president of the University of Northern British Columbia and is a recipient of both the Queen’s Jubilee Medal and the Order of Canada.

The Education Ministry says Jago will work within the net-zero mandate to find an agreement. He will have the resources he needs to do the job, including the ability to engage support staff and independent advisers.

If there is no agreement by the end of June, Jago will write a report with non-binding recommendations.