Nearly 300 educational assistants in the Hanover School Division, represented by the CLAC union, are walking off the job and hitting the picket line as of Wednesday, November 1st.
CLAC and HSD have been in negotiations since March 2023, and after CLAC delivered a strike notice on October 24, two additional bargaining sessions were scheduled for October 30th and 31st. Even with these two additional, eleventh-hour sessions, and the help of a conciliator, an agreement has not been reached.
As we have reported, Geoff Dueck Thiessen, CLAC Winnipeg Regional Director and Representative, says the strike is regrettable but appears to be necessary.
“For a long time, Hanover School Division has had the lowest administrative costs per student in the province,” he explains. “This has translated into precarious wages for their EAs, who are paid several dollars per hour less than those in directly neighbouring school divisions.”
Hilda Hildebrand, an EA on the CLAC HSD bargaining committee, agrees.
“HSD strives to be student-centred, it’s in their mission statement,” says Hildebrand. “But we EAs are a crucial, hands-on part of making ‘student-centred’ possible. If we aren’t taken care of, how are we supposed to show up to work every day with all the patience and calm needed to face the many intense challenges of our jobs?”
Dueck Thiessen says the EAs are walking off the job en masse Wednesday morning, with pickets planned for several locations in Steinbach.
“CLAC prefers to represent our members in a partnership with employers, and we rarely strike,” he notes. “In this case, it’s the right thing to do. We hope to resolve this as quickly as possible and get these folks back to work with a wage they can live on and that respects their efforts.”
The Hanover School Division sent a message to parents noting that volunteer assistance may be needed to fill the gaps left by EAs during this work stoppage.
The statement specifically singled out recess supervision which is part of EAs jobs.
“We do not have enough staff to cover the supervision required. HSD has given the schools permission to reach out to volunteers to help with these duties,” adding “We are looking for help for the morning, noon and afternoon recesses.”
In addition, a number of schools reached out to parents on Tuesday, preparing them for the possibility of a strike.
For example, Woodlawn School asked for assistance with recess supervision, but also warned that some services may not be available as normal.
“We are asking parents whose children walk to school to be aware there may be times when we do not have crossing guards in place.” The statement continues “We recommend parents walk their children to school. We will have less supervision on the playground in the morning before school.”
Finally, Woodlawn informs parents “If your child normally receives support from an educational assistant, our learning support team will be reaching out to you shortly. We will continue to communicate with you as the situation progresses.”
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