Timing and perspective can’t be overlooked

Column: 
May 16, 2020

Editorial

Suppose you weren’t one of the province’s 13,500 teachers, chances are you would barely even realize that, oh yes, the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee and the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee actually thrashed out a four-year agreement.

Of course, there’s the little matter of teachers voting to ratify the deal, which we should know how that turns out by mid-May or so.

Predictably, there has been considerable feedback from teachers including those who are dead set against a pact that provides only modest two percent salary hikes starting in September and the two subsequent years. There is also less than unanimous satisfaction with the fact that this is a four-year deal. Too long some folks say.

In an effort to be succinct, I offer only this: timing and perspective are key in this scenario.

By his own admission, Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation President Patrick Maze said he wouldn’t have agreed to this tentative deal if he had been presented with it just a few weeks earlier. At that time, the STF was riding the crest of the wave after the incredibly successful sanctions vote and apparent strong public support.

Then along came COVID-19 and the world as we knew it came to an abrupt halt. It wasn’t so much that the goalposts had been moved; they had been ripped out of the ground. In their place was not only the seemingly unstoppable surges in cases, but also the daily updates that were hardly a source of uplifting news in most cases. Experts were dug up from every corner of the planet and each one had a more somber prediction than the other.

So against that backdrop, to suddenly have emerged with an agreement after months of acrimony and behind-the-scenes machinations, could there be a signed deal as well? Some might say it is somewhat underwhelming. Again, people, contemplate the reality. Conciliation was never going to solve this, and from the outset, it was clear class size and composition wouldn’t be part of any deal either. The revamped committee to look into this very real problem might be a step in the right direction if we allow ourselves to be guardedly optimistic.

Right now it’s safe to say nobody knows what the future looks like six months down the road, but given the thousands of job losses and the overall economic woes, maybe four years of security isn’t such a bad thing. And don’t forget folks, you actually get to have a vote this time as it stands right now.

If this pandemic has taught us one thing for absolute certain–there is an acute need for people to work together, to help each other and to trust. This would be a great starting point.