The Hanover School Division EA strike wrapped up one week ago, and things are getting back to normal.
Geoff Dueck Thiessen is the Regional Director of CLAC, the union representing the educational assistants. Looking back at the strike, he says it was quite the ride.
“A strike is a very all-consuming event for our members, for us as staff of the union as well. It's been incredible, it's been intense, and it's been mostly positive. Fatiguing but rewarding. We're coming out of a very intense experience, feeling ready to move on, but also probably a little bit changed by the experience as well.”
The EA strike started on November 1st and lasted three weeks.
Dueck Thiessen notes work stoppages are always the last resort in the negotiating process, but he couldn't be much happier with how this one went. He adds, the EAs in the Hanover School Division were a pleasure to work with.
“It is a bit upsetting, a strike, but we wanted it to be as positive as possible. The EAs brought that positivity to the strike. They were brave, they were fun, they were compassionate, they were resilient, I could keep on going on with the list of wonderful words. When they would struggle, they'd support each other.”
A positive strike may sound like an oxymoron, but Dueck Thiessen says that was their goal from the outset. He notes they also felt the community get behind them in a big way.
“The community was supportive, got coffee and doughnuts and baking, and you name it. It was dropped off for folks by all sorts of people, people who are parents of students, people who are teachers, people who are businesspeople in the community.” He adds “Really the EAs felt embraced by the community, and maybe that wasn't expected totally.”
With all that said, Dueck Thiessen says they do not want to minimize the effects that the strike had on the community, both in schools and on the streets with persistent honking.
Looking at the new collective agreement, Dueck Thiessen says it is a good step forward.
“After striking, Hanover did improve their offer significantly and that's a gain. I think the EAs should be really proud of standing up and taking positive action and getting a good result for it." However, he adds "It doesn't go far enough, ultimately, and there are some reasons for that, and one of them is budgetary, and funding related. There is some challenge there for the school division as well.”
Unfortunately, Dueck Thiessen says Hanover EAs are still going to be paid less than those working in neighbouring school divisions such as Seine River, Sunrise, and of course, Winnipeg divisions.
“When we're back to bargaining in 2026, I think we'll be looking for some more catch up and some more gains and hopefully we won't have to strike again to get them. I don't think that's ever the goal. But did we get some big gains? We absolutely did.”
Those discussions are a long way down the road and Dueck Thiessen says it’s impossible to know what all will change in the years ahead.
Dueck Thiessen thanks the community for their support and patience. He says he is proud of the EAs he worked with over the last few weeks.
“Change is sometimes a good thing, and we can be participants in it. And if we stay true to our values and keep integrity, I'm not saying we did this perfectly, but I think if that's what we work at, people can do things they didn't think they could do before, and we can make change.”
Finally, Dueck Thiessen adds “I think that it's going to be a good year going forward.”