The Ontario Labour Board recently decidedthat a planned day of protest/political protest by members of the ElementaryTeachers’ Federation of Ontario (EFTO) is an illegal strike. On January 9,2013, EFTO announced its intention to have its members engage in a day ofprotest in response to the Ontario Government imposing a two year collectiveagreement on the teachers on January 2nd. The plan was to have EFTO memberswithdraw their services province-wide on January 11th.
The Labour Board convened a hearing onJanuary 10th to assess whether EFTO’s withdrawal of services was in fact anunlawful strike. The Board rejected the teachers’ assertion that they retaineda right to protest because the collective agreement in place was imposed onthem. The Board instead recognized the well-established principle that apolitical strike during the term of a collective agreement is still an unlawfulstrike. The Board ordered EFTO to refrain from engaging in the planned unlawfulstrike.
This same issue was before the British ColumbiaCourt of Appeal in 2009 when the BC Teachers’ Federation challenged thedefinition of strike in the BC Labour Relations Code as restricting their rightto engage in political protests. The Court found that the definition didinfringe the teachers’ freedom of expression under the Charter, but that theprevention of the disruption of services was an objective that justified such arestriction. The limit on the right to strike mid-contract was thereforejustified and political protests by BC teachers during working hours weredeemed to be unlawful.
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