In a YouTube video posted on March 2, the premier said class sizes have decreased, test scores are increased and the province has more young people graduating than ever before.
"Our reality is while education funding will still grow, we're going to have to focus on things that allow our children to achieve the best possible results," the premier said in the video. "Because salaries account for most of that education funding, we're going to be asking all those working in education to do their part to help us slow down spending."
The Ontario government revealed its bargaining position for the next set of province-wide contracts and said it is looking to implement a two-year wage freeze along with a two-year halt on advancement up the salary grid.
McGuinty is also hoping to eliminate a benefit that allows teachers to bank 200 sick days over their years of employment and have it cashed out on retirement. Instead, the government is proposing teachers get six days a year of sick time at 100 per cent compensation and the following 24 weeks would be at two-thirds salary. Unused sick time would be carried forward, the government said.
“A cash-out of more than 200 days is not sustainable in the long term and not in line with the current fiscal reality we have in the province,” Education Minister Laurel Broten said. “A sick day that a teacher might accumulate this year, at their salary in their first or second year of teaching, is paid out at the end of the career at the salary level they have at that instance.”
Most teachers’ unions have rejected the province's offer. The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) called it "offensive."
“To say we were insulted is an understatement,” said ETFO president Sam Hammond in a statement. “We find the tone and, most significantly, the content of the government’s parameters to be offensive to all ETFO members and cannot be a party to what amounts to deep and mean-spirited strips to our collective agreements.”
Current contracts for Ontario teachers and school support staff are set to expire Aug. 31. The McGuinty government is seeking a two-year contract instead of the standard four-year agreements reached in the last two sets of negotiations.
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