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McGuinty asks teachers to 'do their part' in YouTube video

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty speaks to the media during a pre-budget press conference on Feb. 21, 2012.

Peter Power/ The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/ The Globe and Mail

Premier Dalton McGuinty is asking Ontario's teachers to "do their part" to help slow down spending and protect education in the province.

In a YouTube video released this morning, Mr. McGuinty thanks teachers for their years of work before asking them to accept a wage freeze and changes to their sick leave plan.

"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.

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"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."

In the video which comes a day after opposition parties accused the Liberals of negotiating through the media, Mr. McGuinty asked the province's teachers to accept a "real two-year wage freeze."

Ontario teachers currently start at $41,766 to $44,292, and can make up to $92,813 in elementary schools and $94,942 in secondary schools, depending on years of service and education.

The government wants to freeze the grid so no one gets a raise because of seniority or improved credentials.

The premier is also asking teachers for an end to a "generous sick leave plan" which currently allows most teachers in Ontario to bank up to 200 days over their career, leading to a lump sum payment averaging $46,000 when they retire.

The government wants to limit teachers to six sick days a year and eliminate their ability to accumulate them and be paid out, although sick days that have already been banked will be protected.

Education Minister Laurel Broten has said teachers' sick days currently amount to a $1.7-billion liability and can't be sustained by a government facing a $16-billion deficit.

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The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario has called the details of the government's position "offensive" and walked out of contract talks on Wednesday.

Mr. McGuinty's Friday morning video urges teachers to work with the government to safeguard the education of Ontario's youth as province weathers a tough global economy.

"Getting there won't be easy. It's going to take an unwavering commitment and we need to make the right choices for our students," he said.

"If we work together, we can keep advancing student achievement so that we preserve our greatest advantage as a province, that's our highly skilled, highly educated workforce."

Contracts for teachers and school support staff expire Aug. 31, and the government is seeking only a two-year deal after going for four-year agreements in the last two sets of negotiations.

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