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Ontario high-school teachers approve new levy to bolster strike fund

Teachers protest in front of the Toronto District School Board offices in Toronto on December 18, 2012.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Ontario's high school teachers' union this weekend unanimously approved a new levy to bolster its strike fund, signalling that it's ready for a labour battle regardless of which party is elected on June 12.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation held a special meeting on Saturday to discuss their bargaining strategy and approve the new supplemental fee.

The fee will be used to maintain the strike fund at its current level and provide an increase in strike pay.

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Paul Elliott, the union's president, said high school teachers have made their position clear and that they will not accept any more cuts.

"Regardless of the provincial election results, we must be prepared to fend off further cuts and be prepared to fight for the reasonable improvements that members are demanding and deserve," he said in a statement to The Globe and Mail.

Ontario's public school system underwent chaos last year after the Liberals, under former Premier Dalton McGuinty, imposed controversial legislation on teachers that infringed on their collective bargaining rights, restricted their ability to strike and imposed pay cuts through unpaid days.

Teachers held large scale walkouts and withdrew extracurriculars in protest.

The Liberals under Kathleen Wynne tried to smooth relations by entrenching a new bargaining process before the election was called. Under the new process, big monetary items, such as salaries and benefits, will be negotiated centrally. Locals issues, such as access to technology and training, would take place between individual school boards and and their respective unions.

Teacher contracts expire in August.

Those in the education sector are expecting a tense showdown because the government will have to grapple with a large deficit, and unions will fight any new cuts.

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