Hanover EAs Ratify New Collective Agreement, Ending Strike
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Hanover EAs Ratify New Collective Agreement, Ending Strike

Steinbach, MB—Educational assistants (EAs) employed by Hanover School Division (HSD) and represented by CLAC Local 306 voted to ratify a new collective agreement and are returning to work today. The EAs voted 83.1 percent in favour of the new four-year contract last night after striking for three weeks.

Geoff Dueck Thiessen, CLAC Winnipeg Member Centre regional director, says the new agreement is a big step in the right direction but cautions the work isn’t done and will resume when this agreement expires in 2026.

“This agreement pulls total EA compensation close to 16 percent over four years,” he says. “This includes an immediate increase of 6.3 percent, much of which is retroactive. The most senior EAs will see their wages adjusted in total over $2 per hour in 2024, and the education premium increases 42 percent over the life of the agreement, including an immediate 21 percent increase. In addition, EAs will no longer lose workdays due to unpredictable school closures, and they see significant improvements in sick days provisions.”

The strike, though arduous, accomplished much for the school division’s EAs.

“First, the EAs became galvanized—they stood up together and demanded better,” says Dueck Thiessen. “Second, they showed the community their value both by demonstrating their amazing character on the picket line and by the immense parental support they received.

“Third, I believe they shook something loose in the community. This community has a reputation for being careful with their money, which can be a positive value, but I feel the community sent a powerful message that people must come first and can’t be hurt in service of frugality.”

The strike has revealed issues beyond EAs struggling to make ends meet during a time of high inflation, and Dueck Thiessen has strong words for the new NDP government.

“These wage adjustments, while significant, still need work in our next round of bargaining in three years, to get to a wage that fully compensates these folks for the valuable work they do,” he says. “And some of that is going to have to come from better government funding. The last provincial government hamstrung school divisions by limiting their taxing powers, without backfilling with adequate funding. And the current government has been silent as our members went on strike.

“What Manitobans need to know is that our education system is under immense strain and is being held together by an army of front-line workers who often need to work more than one job. And it’s their passion and incredible character that keeps this system running behind the scenes.

“The system needs help, in the form of dollars and cents, and this strike has certainly highlighted that fact. By educating our children, Manitoba’s school divisions help shape our province’s future, and the people they employ—the people who support these students—need to feel supported too.”

Following the weeks-long strike, Dueck Thiessen remains optimistic about the relationship between the workers, their union, and the employer.

“I think this strike might have reset something in the relationship between the EAs and HSD,” he says. “Assertiveness, when done well, leads to an increase in respect. These employees will be more capable in demanding better working conditions because they now know how to stand together with a strong voice.

“CLAC looks forward to working closely with HSD administration to make sure this critically important employee group can function at the highest level possible to ensure the students needing support receive it.”

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