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Teachers rally outside on the front lawn of the Ontario legislature at Queen's Park in Toronto.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The province has reached a last-minute agreement with several thousand educational assistants, making small progress toward their goal of avoiding expensive pay raises for education staff this fall.

The deal involves nearly 3,000 education assistants at Halton, Dufferin-Peel, Waterloo and francophone school boards and promises terms similar to those outlined in legislation that is likely to be passed shortly at Queen's Park.

They include a wage freeze for two years, and a 0.5 per cent pay cut in the form of one unpaid professional development day in order to preserve experience-based pay raises for newer staff.

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The educational assistants will also see cuts to their sick days, something Premier Dalton McGuinty has suggested might also be necessary for police and firefighters.

In July, the province reached an agreement with the English Catholic teachers' union, but most school boards and other unions have been reluctant to accept the same terms.

With the school year just days away, the minority Liberal government recalled the legislature two weeks early to introduce legislation that would force the monetary terms of the Catholic contract on the rest of the province's boards, delaying pay raises for young teachers and blocking strikes and lockouts.

The bill, which has the support of Conservatives, has angered teachers. Over 10,000 attended a rally at Queen's Park this week, and some are considered scaling back on voluntary services such as clubs and coaching in retaliation.

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