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Canada

Govt says it’s staring down a $7B bill for education talks

The cost of labour peace with educators could hit an estimated $7 billion by 2021-22, the government says.

Demands by Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) members who are conducting a one-day strike Wednesday would cost an extra $500 million in the third year of a contract, the provincial government projects.

If spread across all provincial education workers, the price tag to settle would hit almost $3 billion in the third year of contracts, government numbers indicate.

Education contracts frequently have “me too” language that entitle them to perks negotiated by fellow teacher unions.

As the province braced for another teacher walk out Wednesday, a government source released its costing of union bargaining demands.

An OSSTF call wage and benefit hikes would cost $99.1 million in 2019-20, $195.3 million in 2020-21 and $293.9 million in 2021-22, government figures indicate.

Across all education work, the additional compensation costs would be $515.1 million this year, just over $1 billion next year and more than $1.5 billion in the third year of the contract, the government says.

Other OSSTF requests such as status quo classroom sizes, preparation time for early childhood educators, a WSIB top up, improved parental leave and $5,000 per employee to pay for local bargaining for more salary, teachers or hours would put the cost of the one union’s asks at more than $700 million in the third year of contract, the government says.

These numbers do not reflect the full price tag because some items are not yet fully costed or would vary by demand, so the figures could go up or down from $3 billion, the government acknowledges .

The OSSTF has said that its contract requests reflect the status quo and that compensation increases would just cover cost-of-living hikes.

The government’s offer would mean larger class sizes and cuts to important education programs, the OSSTF says.

Meanwhile, Education Stephen Lecce issued a statement Tuesday saying his government has reached a tentative agreement with the Educational Workers’ Alliance of Ontario (EWAO):

“Our Government has delivered another tentative agreement with education workers that keeps students in class,” the statement said. “This is yet another example of our Government demonstrating a reasonableness and focus on our students at the bargaining table.

aartuso@postmedia.com

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