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Relationship Founders Between Union, Ontario Leaders

The Canadian province of Ontario, long lauded for its collaborative relationship with its teachers' unions, has suddenly found itself taking a harder line against labor.

According to the Globe and Mail, leaders in the province are developing a bill to freeze the pay of unions that won't agree to negotiations to reduce salary benefits, which they say aren't feasible because of economic problems. Also on the table are cuts to sick leave days and payouts, as well as strike rules, the newspaper reports.

Sound familiar? They're many of the same issues that have plagued labor-management relationships across the United States over issues of wages and benefits during a period of flat or declining revenue.

In report after report, Ontario has been praised for gains in student achievement attributed to improvements in the skills of its teachers, which were made through a joint venture between the province's Liberal government and the teachers' union to upgrade reading and math instruction. Education Week featured the province in our Quality Counts report earlier this year.

It's hard to know what lessons to draw from this, other than the obvious fact that cash-strapped times make for much more difficult labor relationships, and even those places that have apparently had great success in that area aren't immune to setbacks.

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