The Hanover School Division is hiring temporary support aids in the midst of the EA strike and many parents and educational assistants are expressing their displeasure with this move.
Staffmax, a recruiting agency, recently posted a job listing for these temporary ‘Support Aid’ positions.
Hanover Superintendent-CEO Shelley Amos says the division’s primary focus remains on the well-being of their students and this move reflects that.
“We are steadfast in our commitment to delivering the support they need and the highest level of service possible during this period of strike disruption. The direct hiring of temporary Educational Assistants and the deployment of staff from temporary agencies includes all required self-declaration and safety checks."
Many parents are not convinced.
Victoria Charise has two kids in the school division, one of which is an 8-year-old that relies heavily on EA support. She reached out to Staffmax to get details. Her number one concern was that, according to the original listing and her conversation with a recruiter, it did not appear that any safety checks were required.
However, an updated listing on the Staffmax website clarifies that applicants must have cleared a criminal record check and an adult and child abuse registry check.
Still, Charise takes issue with the simple fact that the division is hiring temporary EAs.
“That is absolutely 100% a concern because the schools know that they are in dire need, the EAs need to be there and you can see them scrambling when you can just give the EAs who already have their checks, who already know our children, who would just love to be in schools a fair pay and be done with this. There should be no job postings for this whatsoever.”
Charise says temporary support workers simply do not have the lasting relationships with kids in the division that permanent EAs do.
“[Kids] have been through enough already throughout the last few years, they don't need this. The parents don't need this, the schools don't need this, the teachers are stressed, please end this for the kids.”
Geoff Dueck Thiessen is the Regional Director of CLAC, the EAs union. He says they are concerned as the level of care that HSD students receive will undoubtedly dwindle.
Dueck Thiessen says their members are dedicated employees who have been on the picket line since November 1st adding that their value is being seen as their absence is felt by everyone involved.
“What EAs really want is for their employer to listen and to reconsider their position, rather than focus energy and money on bringing in temporary workers who don’t know the schools, the students, the teachers, or the parents, never mind the community values which trustees have said they value.”
Dueck Thiessen says temporary EAs have been offered $20 per hour, only a dollar less than EA's that have been with the division for 20 years as per their last collective agreement.
“When a student gets noisy in school, EAs are expected to be calm, be patient, and listen to what the student needs. When these EAs got noisy, their employer reached out to secure temporary workers at a higher wage than most EAs are currently paid. And that hurts.”
That said, at the time of publishing, the Staffmax listing is actually offering prospective applicants $21 per hour.
Hiring replacement workers during a strike is currently allowed, however, Dueck Thiessen says the New Democratic Party under Wab Kinew previously said it is moving to ban replacement workers during strikes. Those talks appear to have stalled since the resolution was passed at the party’s annual convention in October 2022.
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