04/04/2013 18:47 EDT | Updated 06/04/2013 05:12 EDT

Secondary school bargaining unit ratifies changes for teachers

Secondary-school teachers' foundation leaders voted in favour of changes to working conditions on Thursday, in a round of collective bargaining of the controversial contract imposed on Ontario teachers earlier this year.

The presidents of the bargaining unit for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation voted 96 per cent in favour of the agreement after a meeting of local leaders held Thursday in Toronto.

"This agreement is the result of a prolonged struggle by our members for the democratic collective bargaining rights," said Ken Coran, president of OSSTF.

"In order to achieve these improvements, OSSTF representatives were able to find efficiencies in the funding to school boards that will result in real financial savings that can be re-allocated and not add to the current funding provided by the Ministry of Education."

The agreement, imposed earlier this year after teacher strikes, included amendments to retirement, sick days and maternity leave.

The Ontario Minister of Education, Liz Sandals, said she believes the funding envelope, which exists for education, is not an impediment but has fostered an environment for innovative thinking and problem solving.

"The agreement we have reached with the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers' Federation and its more than 60,000 members is a clear indication of the hard work that all parties are putting in to reaffirm and reinvigorate our partnership and our commitment to Ontario's students," said Sandals.

"The result is an agreement that is fair for taxpayers, federation members and school boards, but the most important beneficiaries are Ontario's students."

The next provincial vote on the agreement will take place on April 18.

"With the changes in process and personnel, OSSTF proposals first made last spring have not been taken seriously and produced results," said Coran.

"Now our members will have an opportunity to have their voices heard through a province-wide vote on this agreement."

The agreement affects public high-school teachers as well as support staff, such as educational assistants and secretaries.