Advising ETFO Members Not to Participate in Extra-Curricular Activities Constitutes A Strike

June 25, 2013

The long awaited Ontario Labour Relations Board (“OLRB”) decision with respect to the application by the Upper Canada District School Board and Trillium Lakelands District School Board alleging that the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (“ETFO”) acted unlawfully when it advised its members not to participate in extra-curricular activities was released in April 2013. Two of the primary issues that were decided were that:

1) the Putting Students First Act (“PSFA”) imposed collective agreements on ETFO members which remain in force despite the repeal of the legislation; and

2) ETFO acted unlawfully when it counselled its members not to engage in extra-curricular activities.

The OLRB found that the fact that the activities not being performed by ETFO members were voluntary and unpaid was not material: “by encouraging its members to no longer perform any of these activities ETFO was, at a minimum ‘interfering’ with either the operation of a school or a program in a school.”

The OLRB placed weight on the fact that the activities in question had been routinely offered for many years. While these activities may originally have been voluntary, the OLRB found that over time they became integral to the operation of the schools and that counselling teachers to refuse to volunteer for these activities constituted a work to rule, which is prohibited in the definition of strike found in the Education Act.

The OLRB confirmed that an individual teacher could refuse to perform the activities without consequence, but when teachers collectively refused to participate in these activities, it constitutes a strike under the Education Act.


This publication is provided as an information service and may include items reported from other sources. We do not warrant its accuracy. This information is not meant as legal opinion or advice.

Miller Thomson LLP uses your contact information to send you information electronically on legal topics, seminars, and firm events that may be of interest to you. If you have any questions about our information practices or obligations under Canada's anti-spam laws, please contact us at

© 2023 Miller Thomson LLP. This publication may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety provided no alterations are made to the form or content. Any other form of reproduction or distribution requires the prior written consent of Miller Thomson LLP which may be requested by contacting