03/12/2012 09:17 EDT | Updated 05/12/2012 05:12 EDT

Education minister asks Catholic teachers for cuts

Laurel Broten, the provincial education minister, received a cool reception when she addressed the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association in Windsor on the weekend.

She did not receive any applause when she was introduced or when she finished her speech, which included pressuring the teachers to accept a wage freeze.

"We're asking this of you, our partners in education, because those kinds of increases and benefits are just not consistent with our current economic reality," she said. "Teachers are the backbone of our current education system. That is why our proposal is designed to protect classroom teaching positions."

The province is proposing a two-year wage freeze and cuts in sick day compensation.

Broten said she was pleased she had a chance to talk about the issues.

Nearly 700 Catholic teachers from across the province gathered in Windsor on the weekend for the O.E.C.T.A. annual general meeting at Caesars.

Teachers offer counter-proposal

Kevin O'Dwyer is president of the association, which represents 45,000 teachers at Catholic schools in the province.

O'Dwyer said the delegates discussed several issues during the convention, including the negotiations with the provincial government on a new agreement.

O'Dwyer said the teachers' bargaining team has made a counter-proposal.

"We've always been lateral thinkers; always able to find solutions; always been able to be creative about what we can do. I think our proposal allows those things. I think we've messaged pretty clearly across the table what we think we can [do] ... and make things work for both what the government needs and what we have needs for," he said.

Tax the rich, says author

One of the speakers at the union conference was journalist and author Linda McQuaig. She touched on the government's move toward austerity.

"We have this fabulous tool, just a fabulous tool, for deficit reduction, but we're told we can't use that tool. We're not even allowed think about that tool and, of course, the tool I'm talking about is taxes — particularly taxing the rich," she said.

McQuaig also spoke at the University of Windsor Sunday night about her latest book, The Trouble With Billionaires.

Windsor praised

The meeting is traditionally held in Toronto, but the decision was made to move it to Windsor.

"Not only is it a labour town, but once you get past that sort of lexicon, you start to understand that this is about a community — a community that goes ahead and tries to support and work with each other," O'Dwyer said of Windsor.