Vince Ready came. He saw … then he walked away. And we despaired.
“If Vince Ready can’t do it, then no one can,” we thought.
But Vince Ready came back. Vince Ready took another look. And Vince Ready conquered.
This is not to compare Vince Ready to Julius Caesar, whose “veni, vidi, vici” came to represent the last word in quick, efficient victory in battle. But with one marathon bargaining session, Mr. Ready’s place as the greatest Canadian labour mediator of the age is confirmed. Only three weeks ago, he walked away from talks between the BCTF and the Province, saying the sides were too far apart. And we the rest of us set our teeth together and prepared for a long autumn of discord, for eventual legislation that would belatedly start the school year, but would leave ongoing animosity in its wake. A solution that would be no solution at all. A bad peace, as they say, that would only lead to another war.
But Vince Ready’s powerful aura does not disappear that easily. Back he came, into the fray. A province full of parents thanks you, Mr. Ready.
Credit, one supposes, should be given to the bargaining teams of both sides and their respective decisions to work towards some middle ground. But considering the depth of the impasse even last week, I, personally, choose to refer to Vince Ready in hushed terms of awe, for accomplishing, yet again, the impossible.
If school begins Monday, Sept. 22, then there has been a three-week delay in school opening (I’m not counting the last two weeks of June — though perhaps I should). That’s a long enough time, but we were preparing for a lot worse — like a month and a half delay. That’s the point when damage would have been caused to the students academically.
But three weeks? That’s short enough so no longterm damage is caused, but long enough that the students have become bored, and will go back to school with a high level of enthusiasm.
Sure, they’re saying that nobody won in this case, everybody lost — government, students, teachers, parents. But that fact that everybody can now get on with their business — government, teachers, students and parents — is a victory and a cause for joy.
Though neither side, as of this writing, has confirmed the terms of Tuesday’s deal, it is reportedly for six years. Students going into Grade 7 this year will have graduated by the time the next round of bargaining is due. As well, the pay increase is (allegedly) set at 7.25 per cent, which in line with other public sector workers.
The deal (according to CBC’s sources) also includes $100 million more for class size and composition. The government had been offering to set aside $300 million for a learning improvement fund for teachers but has now increased it to $400 million.
The CBC also quotes: “The province has also reportedly dropped the controversial E80 clause from contract wording on class size and composition. That was the clause that superseded all previous class size and composition agreements and the teachers feared it would nullify an earlier B.C. Supreme Court ruling in their favour on those issues.”
It almost strikes me as a deal that could be the beginning of the end of the decade(s) of warfare between BCTF and government. That is astounding. It couldn’t have been done without Vince Ready. His work here is done!
Barry Coulter is Editor of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman