* Signs off on deals reached by two big school boards
* Latest progress in talks with provincial unions
* Province reached agreement with doctors last week
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, Nov 20 Ontario's government said on
Tuesday it has approved tentative deals between two major school
boards and their teachers that freeze wages, the second major
labor agreement between the province and its workers in the past
The deals are part of a broader push by ruling Liberals to
curb the budget deficit of Canada's most populous province by
capping the pay of doctors, teachers and civil servants.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who announced last month
that he would resign once the Liberals elect a new leader in
January, said he hoped the deals will serve as a template for
other school boards.
The announcement comes on the heels of another critical
settlement with the province's doctors last week designed to
Education Minister Laurel Broten said the agreements between
unionized teachers and Ontario's Upper Grand District School
Board and York Region District School Board meet the province's
In their March budget, the Liberals pledged to reduce the
province's budget deficit - now projected at C$14.4 billion
($14.43 billion) for the current fiscal year - partly by
providing no money for wage increases.
The government said such measures will save C$6 billion over
BATTLE WITH UNIONS
The Liberal government further angered public sector unions
by passing a law that freezes wages, cuts sick days and limits
their right to strike. The legislation has set the bargaining
deadline for Dec. 31.
The agreements on Tuesday followed months of contentious
negotiations, which saw many teachers withdraw from voluntary
activities, and still need to be ratified by the local unions.
The government had already approved an agreement with
Catholic teachers and is still reviewing several other tentative
Ontario's teachers are among the highest paid in Canada, a
country where educators rank as some of the best compensated in
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development, the top salary for Canadian elementary teachers
is$54,978, which stands only behind Austria, Germany, Ireland,
South Korea and Luxembourg.
Credit rating agencies have repeatedly warned Ontario that
tackling its deficit will require tough austerity measures.
Canada's provincial governments, which administer most of
the country's health and education spending, have met fierce
opposition in recent years as they've moved to control their
budget deficits through cuts to services.
Healthcare and education make up about 70 percent of
Ontario's spending on programs, with wages and fees accounting
for more than half of the expenses.