The regional director of CLAC, the union representing Hanover School Division educational assistants, is providing additional context regarding the strike mandate. 

96 percent of the EAs voted in favour of strike action which doesn't automatically trigger a work stoppage but allows the bargaining group to trigger one if need be. 

Geoff Dueck Thiessen says their collective agreement expired last fall and both parties have been at the bargaining table since March. 

“Negotiations have have been civil. We've progressed through lots of items, mostly the non-monetary stuff, you know, changing the language of the collective agreement on this and that. That's gone fine, all we have really left is the wages and that's the part where we remain very far apart.” 

For context Dueck Thiessen notes “The starting rate from educational assistant [in the HSD] right now is $16.78 an hour. That's an educational assistant who doesn't have any particular educational qualifications, just hired to to do the basic job and if they have an educational background that qualifies them, then that's 95 cents more an hour.” 

Dueck Thiessen says this is not adequate compensation for the critical work that they do in schools across the division. He adds the conditions have aligned in such a way that EAs have had enough and run out of patience. 

“It's not really that unusual for education-sector bargaining to grind on for a while and take a bit of time, but this year the cost of living has, as everybody knows, skyrocketed. It's been very high, and these folks are really in a precarious job. They work, at most, 6 or 6.5 hours a day, they're indispensable to the students such that it's very hard to get any time away because they matter so much, and yet you can hardly live on that wage.” 

To make matters worse, Dueck Thiessen says Hanover School Division EAs don’t have to look very far to see that others are compensated much better for the same job. 

“The neighboring school division wages are $2 to $3 to $4 an hour higher depending on the starting wage, the top rate, whether an EA has education or not. So, what we're looking for is some catch up. So far, the school division has been a little more interested in a patterned approach to modest wage adjustments that you might have seen in some other public-sector employers.” 

CLAC is currently making sure everything is in place so a strike can be called if they feel it is needed. As we reported on Wednesday, Dueck Thiessen says they would much rather resolve this issue at the bargaining table. 

“Hanover School Division has a very strong ideal that they are student centered. I think that what we want to impress on people is that EAs are also student centered.” He adds “If EA's do end up on the picket line, they don't want to be there, they want to be with their students. They care.” 

However, Dueck Thiessen says you can't serve people well if you're not looked after yourself. 


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