The Ontario Labour Relations Board (“Board”) has released its decision concerning whether it was legal for the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (“ETFO”) to encourage teachers to withdraw from voluntary, extracurricular activities earlier this year. Two school boards sought a cease-and-desist order from the Board, arguing that the actions of the ETFO amounted to encouraging an unlawful strike.
Following nine days of hearing, the Board found that an organized withdrawal from participation in extracurricular activities such as organized team sports, as well as other clubs and bands, fell within the definition of a “strike” under the Education Act.
The Board held that the fact that participation in these extracurricular activities is voluntary does not affect whether a withdrawal from these activities meets the definition of a strike. Rather, these actions were unlawful because the teachers had been encouraged as a group to withdraw their participation in extracurricular activities in order to pressure the employer and to interfere with the normal activities of the school board or the operation or functioning of the programs in one or more school.
In other words, the Board considered it irrelevant that participation in extracurricular activities by teachers is unpaid, as what is prohibited is concerted collective activity by teachers which interferes with the normal, long-standing activities of the school boards.
The Board clarified, however, that teachers are entitled to determine on an individual basis whether or not to engage in extracurricular activities, and further that participation in any extracurricular activities will not be subject to discipline by ETFO.
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