The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), in suggesting its members withdraw from participating in voluntary activities, engaged in illegal strike action, according to a decision from the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) on April 11.
The Trillium Lakelands District School Board and the Upper Canada District School Board, both in southern Ontario, filed a labour relations complaint in January and asked the OLRB to rule that the teachers’ union was engaging in an illegal strike by encouraging teachers to do only the minimum requirements of their jobs and to withdraw from activities such as attending field trips, collecting pizza money and participating in extracurricular activities.
The union claims that its communication to members was not a “directive,” and that union leaders had simply offered advice, as the teachers could make their own choices as to whether they want to participate.
The OLRB’s interim decision states that withdrawal of voluntary services during the term of a collective agreement constitutes a strike. However, this issue is still subject to a decision from the OLRB on charter issues related to the definition. No final orders have been issued because the union's charter challenge remains to be litigated.
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