Educational assistants (EA) in Manitoba’s southern school division have now been striking for six days and things are heating up as the union representing the workers, the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC), alleges the employer is hiring replacement workers.
EAs in the province are currently fighting for fair wages, as many claim their role and job responsibilities have changed significantly but their wages remain the same.
“I never thought I’d ever be on strike as an educational assistant in the Hanover School Division,” said Carla Burkert, EA at the Hanover School Division.
Burkert said she has worked in the division for 34 years and that many EAs have to have second jobs to make ends meet.
After one week on the picket line, the CLAC has brought another issue forward: the possibility of replacement workers being hired to fill the roles of the employees on strike.
“The glue has been taken out of the schools and it’s being replaced with folks who don’t have those relationships, who don’t have the experience, and I’m sure that’s not ideal for anybody right now,” said Geoff Dueck Thiessen, regional director for the CLAC.
Global News reached out to the school division for an interview regarding the allegations but it denied the request. It did, however, point to the latest update available on the division’s website, which said it has taken “proactive measures” to meet the needs of students during the strike.
An earlier statement from the board chair on Tuesday said the division received only a .2 per cent funding increase last year and is running an $800,000 deficit this year, adding that the division’s offer of a 13 per cent wage increase over four years is a fair deal. The CLAC disagrees.
“We think there’s a long-standing pattern in this area of keeping wages lower than the surrounding neighbours, and we think something’s got to shake loose,” Thiessen said.
In the meantime, EAs remain hopeful that they will be able to get a fair resolution and return to work.
“We centre our daytime lives around our students, and we’re so waiting to get back into the classroom,” Burkert said.
The CLAC represents more than 60,000 workers in almost every sector of the economy.
— with files from Global’s Iris Dyck
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