A round of layoffs in the Hanover School Division has prompted a mixed response among their educational assistants, custodians, and part-time workers who have now found themselves without a job.
Geoff Dueck Thiessen is the Regional Director of the Christian Labor Association of Canada, a union that represents, in part, the HSD staff who have experienced job loss due to COVID-19.
Prior to these layoffs, Dueck Thiessen says the CLAC had encouraged school divisions to keep their employees employed. In this case, that advice was not heeded.
“Our position, which we made known to HSD, is that we wanted our members to be kept on the payroll. The division has explored this and has decided that it’s not the best option.”
Now, he says, affected staff have been made to rationalize that decision in their own minds.
“These folks might be interpreting this as an indication that they are not important or valued, but I don’t think that is the intended message. I think the message is that we are in a different world now with a different educational plan. My encouragement is for them not to take it too personally.”
Dueck Thiessen has spoken with many of the affected HSD staff members and has come to realize that everyone is handling the news differently.
As he indicates, there are some who are genuinely grateful for the layoffs as it allows them to spend more time caring for their own families, others are disappointed that they will be unable to maintain a meaningful relationship with their students, and still others feel slighted that the division has seemingly deemed them “unessential”.
“Those people are really hurt because they feel like such a critical part of the behind the scenes education team.”
Despite the hurt and confusion that has accompanied these layoffs, Dueck Thiessen assures his members that they will be cared for. He notes the school division’s health benefit premiums remain in place, and the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit is available to anyone who has need. Furthermore, Dueck Thiessen affirms those who are worried that they have a strong collective agreement in place which defines their job security.
While the Hanover School Division was early to the game when it comes to laying off employees, Dueck Thiessen expects other divisions will be faced with a similar challenge in the near future.
“Some divisions that thought they could keep everybody might need to start looking at other options.”