Hanover School Division Support Staff Ratify New Agreements and Avoid Strike Action
Winnipeg— On Monday, September 13, custodial staff and educational assistants employed by Hanover School Division (HSD) ratified new three-year collective agreements after a round of negotiations complicated by provincial legislation and narrowly avoided strike action.
The division’s support staff has been represented by Education, Service and Healthcare Union, CLAC Local 306, since 2007. The employees had voted to strike at the end of July, but ongoing negotiations averted the need for a partial work stoppage.
“Striking is the last thing that anyone wanted, including the union,” says Geoff Dueck Thiessen, CLAC Winnipeg regional director. “However, at the time, it seemed there was no alternative. Hanover negotiated a fair contract with their teachers this past spring, and it is only fair that the support staff who work behind the scenes to ensure that our schools are safe would be extended the same courtesy and offered the same terms.”
Negotiations were complicated further because the provincial government had directed school divisions to follow the conditions set out in the Public Services Sustainability Act (2017). The legislation restricted negotiations to monetary improvements of 0, 0, 0.75, and 1 percent over four years. Though overturned in court, the province still issued a mandate for school divisions to follow this wage directive. Pending amendments to the Labour Relations Act meant if the union was to strike for 60 days to file for arbitration with the labour board, they would have to do so quickly.
The settlement was reached in final week of the summer, just days before the school year started. The results followed similar settlements, including that of the support staff of Garden Valley School Division, who are also represented by Local 306. The three-year deal secured by HSD’s employees included wage adjustments of 1.6, 1.4, and 0.5 percent, along with some minor wording adjustments.
“I recognize the difficult situation the school division was in, with a mandate from government that included two years of wage freezes while facing the worst-case scenario of Bill 64,” says Dueck Thiessen. “I’m very pleased that Bill 64 has been cancelled and that HSD agreed to show their support staff they care by coming to a fair and reasonable settlement during very challenging times. Now HSD is facing a second September of public health orders and the continued challenges of the pandemic, so it’s good to have this big hurdle out of the way.”