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Ontario education workers will be in legal strike position as of Sept. 23, as their union took the first step Thursday toward job action. (file photo)

TORONTO - The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) says its 55,000 custodians, librarians, technicians and other support staff in Ontario public schools are preparing to strike on Monday.

The workers, represented by CUPE's Ontario School Board Council of Unions, began a work-to-rule campaign on Monday as confusion mounted about when their union and the government would return to the bargaining table.

Contract talks between the union and the province broke down last month.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said CUPE, which represents 55,000 custodians, clerical workers and early childhood educators, had accepted a government offer of new mediation dates and talks could resume as early as this week. CUPE is waiting to hear about those dates and says it hasn't received notice.

CUPE said in a news conference Wednesday that students are being put in unsafe conditions.

“The only chaos that has been created in the system is the cuts by the provincial government,” says Fred Hahn, CUPE Ontario president.

Custodians have stopped cleaning hallways and emptying garbage cans outside schools, clerical workers have stopped finding replacements for absent staff, and education workers have stopped working overtime.

The Thames Valley District School Board responded to the news Wednesday with a statement.

"We continue to evaluate the situation and will provide updates related to operations of schools as they become available. At this time, parents and guardians should be considering alternate arrangements for childcare for next week, as the decision around school closures has yet to be determined. Schools remain open for the rest of this week."

In a later update, the board said a decision about school closures will be made on Friday and communicated directly to staff and students.

They are encouraging families to begin to consider alternate child-care arrangements starting on Oct. 7.

- With files from The Canadian Press