Nearly 300 educational assistants in the Hanover School Division (HSD) are ready to walk off the job next week.

The Christian Labour Association (CLAC) has issued a strike notice to HSD following unsuccessful bargaining on Tuesday, October 24. The move comes after the union, representing (EAs), received a 96 per cent strike mandate from its membership. The latest offer from the employer was deemed unsatisfactory.

According to CLAC Winnipeg regional director, Geoff Dueck Thiessen, both parties are scheduled to reconvene on Monday, October 30. Should an agreement not be reached by the close of Tuesday, October 31, EAs are set to go on strike starting Wednesday, November 1.

In a release emailed on Tuesday, CLAC acknowledged the potential disruptions this strike may cause for schools and parents, saying that the educational system is already feeling the strain. The EAs say they have been grappling with suppressed wages and increased workloads.

"We are hearing pretty consistently that parents and teachers are supportive of the EAs," Dueck Thiessen stated. "Everyone knows this won’t be easy, but sometimes we must do the hard thing. Ultimately, the board of trustees provides the employer’s mandate for bargaining. We hope the public agrees that underpaying your people by several dollars per hour isn’t better for students or staff and that being the school division with the lowest administrative costs per student in the province isn’t working."

Education, Service, and Healthcare Union, CLAC Local 306, has represented the EAs since 2005. Dueck Thiessen emphasized that while there may be budgetary challenges for the school division, postponing reasonable wages until a different funding model emerges is not a viable solution.

"There’s nothing historical that suggests HSD wants to pay competitive wages and that this could change at some later date," he explained. "Teachers are likely going to see large wage increases as part of Manitoba’s first round of provincial negotiations, and HSD administration normally sees those same increases. So why should the lowest paid folks, who are putting their hearts, souls, and bodies forward every day in some of the most challenging situations you can imagine happening in a school, settle for less?”

Dueck Thiessen says, “HSD will find the funds to pay upcoming teacher salary increases, and they can find funds to pay support staff better, too.”

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