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Ontario education minister says $1M payout to teachers' union 'not unusual'

Last Updated Oct 21, 2015 at 11:43 am EDT

Education Minister Liz Sandals says a $1-million payout to the union representing Ontario’s high school teachers is “not unusual,” but will not be needed in future rounds of bargaining.

The Globe and Mail is reporting that the government agreed to the payout to the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation to compensate the union for the cost of negotiations because they went on so long under the province’s new bargaining system.

“It is not unusual to provide support with the costs of central bargaining,” Sandals said in a statement.

She said support has been provided to the school boards and unions at times to “ensure the successful transformation of provincial bargaining.”

“As this is the first round under the SBCBA (School Boards Collective Bargaining Act), the process required more time and resources from all parties involved. This will not be the case in future rounds. The parties continue to cover all costs of local bargaining.”

Ontario reached an agreement this summer with the secondary teachers and the deal included a one-per-cent lump sum payment this year and a one-per-cent raise as of Sept. 1, 2016, with another half per cent later.

The Liberal government said the deal was net zero, meaning the raises were offset by finding savings elsewhere.

The Globe reports that the government was able to fund those raises by diverting money from a fund for special programs that help struggling students graduate.

In a statement, Sandals says it’s “simply not true” and that as part of the agreement the government eliminated “an entitlement made before the recession to hire additional teachers over and above the provincial requirements for class size.”

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown says the government is taking money from students “to pay for their own mistakes” with its new bargaining system.