Educational assistants in the Hanover School Division have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action. 

Nearly 300 Hanover EAs have been represented by the Education, Service, and Healthcare Union, CLAC Local 306 since 2005. Together with CLAC, the HSD EAs have been in negotiations since March.

This strike mandate does not mean that members of the union will be on the picket line immediately, though CLAC says it is planning to initiate strike action soon if a satisfactory deal cannot be reached. No specific strike date has been set at this point. 

The negotiating parties last met on Monday and their next bargaining meeting is set for next Tuesday, October 24th with the assistance of a conciliator  

CLAC Regional Director and Representative Geoff Dueck Thiessen says striking is the last thing the union or its members want and that EAs are concerned about the impacts that striking may have on the students they care so much about. Despite that, taking the vote and planning for a work stoppage was the next necessary step.  

“EAs working at Hanover schools are now paid less than any neighbouring school division by several dollars per hour,” says Dueck Thiessen. “EAs show up every day for the students with the highest needs and are committed to making sure those students have access to safe, quality education. They endure violence, tolerate the most challenging student behaviours, and even do healthcare duties like catheterizations, feeding tubes, and colostomy bags.  

In addition, he notes “EAs are expected to work with any student need. And they’re exhausted, looking for some real, tangible proof that they are valued by their employer and by the community. They’ve gotten sick, physically and psychologically, from work. They want to do this challenging job and not have to worry about how many days they will lose each year. If they can’t work, they can’t pay their bills.”  

Dueck Thiessen reports 92 percent of the HSD EAs voted this past week, and 96 percent voted yes to strike action. The decision wasn’t due to the union pushing for a strike, clarifies Dueck Thiessen, but was a collective decision made by employees demonstrating remarkable unity.  

“We are not taking strike action to shut down the school division, or get into peoples’ faces,” he explains. “People should understand that this is not a strike-happy union, or strike-happy employees. CLAC has rarely taken our members out on strike. What we are doing is sending a message that HSD support staff are critical members of the division’s educational team and that we care enough about this issue to take a stand. And if we end up having to picket, you’re going to see positive people who want to get back to the work they love.”  

Dueck Thiessen points to recent changes to Manitoba’s funding for public education. “It is time we think differently about what it costs to include all students in education,” he says. “The provincial government has restructured funding so that there is equity of education across school divisions, regardless of the wealth of the tax base of each school division. If we want equity in education, that needs to apply to pay as well.” 


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