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London

OSSTF members encouraged to join picket line outside of school hours

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation encourages members to join education support workers on the picket line Friday, so long as it's outside class time.

OSSTF President Karen Littlewood said her union is still in contract negotiations with the Ford government. It has three days of talks planned next week for the education workers that it represents and more at the end of the month for its teachers. It is not in a legal strike position.

"We're saying do whatever you can," she explained. "We're expecting many of our members, before work, at lunch, after work, will be showing up."

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario is also bargaining with government officials. It also said members need to show up for work.

Littlewood admitted the Keeping Students in Class Act changes the environment around the bargaining table.

"I don't think the government would be too challenged to take CUPE out and put OSSTF in should they feel the need," she said. "It's just really challenging to believe the Ontario government is going ahead with this."

The bill will impose a contract, with concessions, on education support workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). The government has also said it will use the notwithstanding clause to circumvent the Charter Right to collective bargaining.

CUPE said it would not set up picket lines at schools. Instead, its members will protest outside the offices of MPPs. The union plans to continue its strike until it reaches a collectively bargained agreement.

"Long-term? We're not really sure what's going to happen in the province of Ontario," Littlewood said. "With this type of legislation being imposed on one group, I think we have to consider the value of collective bargaining and if Ontarians believe that unions should be able to bargain."

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union said its members would join CUPE members on picket lines on Friday.

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