The faculty strike of 24 public colleges in Ontario enters its second week, over 400,000 students are affected with their classes being cancelled. Among them there are tens of thousands international students, they pay three time more tuition fees to do their education in this country but now they are stranded in this labor dispute.
“It could be worse.”
Fanshawe College campus is very empty and quiet because of this strike, students school lives are at a halt. The long line in front of Tim Hortons is gone, you might think you finally don’t have to wait a long time in the line to get your double-double, but, hold your breath, that Timmies is actually closed.
Vadim Zhang is an international student from Kazakhstan, currently he’s in International Business Management program at Fanshawe College. With no classes to go, he choose to play Ping Pong with his friend to spend this afternoon. He talks about his concerns regarding the strike.
“It (my mood) could be worse, I am confused and I don’t know what to do. I have time and I can spend the time by myself. But I am still trying to keep pace with my studying.”
Zhang plans to apply for work permit after graduate, but he does worry about his job prospect because of this ongoing strike.
“I might waste my time just not doing the assignments, I just don’t get enough knowledge to be able to apply for the job.”
Although Zhang still thinks this strike is justifiable, “overall, education system throughout many years, I think it’s (the strike) a good thing, so teachers can require what they want, this is basically the main thing of democracy,” says he.
“From my perspective, of course it affects me negatively because I lose my time and I don’t have classes which I paid for. I still hope the strike has positive affect on our teachers so they get what they want,” says Zhang.
However, he doesn’t deny the fact that students are the victim in this labor dispute.
“There is always that side that is victimized in every dispute and every conflict. But in our case, we (students) are just not involved in this issue, we are not the problem.”
“I feel stranded.”
Giselle Diaz Castillo is an international student from El Salvador, she’s been in Canada for two years and she’s currently in Business Marketing program at Fanshawe College. She talks about how this strike has affected her school lifestyle.
“My parents sent me here to study so my life is to study. Now I am doing some recreational stuff like going to the gym. Basically I am here to learn and apply back home for a good job…It (the strike) has ruined everything that I have planned, are they going to drop this semester? I don’t know.”
“In general, I feel stranded because I don’t have anything else to do. It’s not like I have family here in Canada so I can go back and see them.”
The Ontario colleges’ strike is now in its second week, if this strike keeps going on, it could be a big challenge trying to make up for three or four lost weeks.
“I don’t want to get behind with all my classes, I don’t want them to extend the semester because I have my ticket already bought to go home for Christmas, I always go back for Christmas and for new year because my family is the most important thing.”
“I know Canadians are having a bad time too but for international students we pay so much money to study here and plus rent and plus food and being away from home, everything is a cost,” says Diaz.
“Right now, I am neutral, I understand the teachers, I talked to them before the strike happened. I think we are the only college that voted no on this strike. And it is their right to protest for a fair treatment in their job…but this could have been resolved in a more professional way.”
“I am in a question mark.”
Puneeth Chowdary Yadlapalli is learning Logistics and Supply Chain Management program at Fanshawe College, he comes from India. He resigned his job in India to further his education in Canada. Currently he is very concerned about his immigration status.
“My study permit is going to expire on November 13th so I need to extend it so I am not getting good assistance from the college, I came in last week but nobody was there to help me. I am getting closed to my deadline, I am tense and I’m stressed now.”
“To reach my goal, I should go on time, but now my semester is broken down so we don’t know when to restart again…we don’t know what’s going on.”
Yadlapalli is doing a part time job at KFC, besides, international students are limited to 20 hours of work per week during school year. He says he has trouble getting more shifts.
“I am not getting more shifts, I can only work 20 hours per week but I am not even getting 20 because most people have got a break (because of this strike) so local people can work as much as they can, so they are getting more shifts, so for me I am in a question mark, I am just staying at home and not coming out so to express my views regarding this strike I came here to do the interview.”
He also says this strike puts more academic pressure on students.
“We have a lot of projects and assignments, after this strike has signed off, there might be a lot of burden on the students…I think there will be more undesirable situations for most people.”
At this point, a quick agreement between the OPSEU and College Employer Council seems unlikely as no new negotiations are scheduled, which adds up the possibility of an extended college year. Yadlapalli talks about his concern to apply for work permit after graduation.
“I want to get a job here…all 24 colleges in Ontario is doing (strike) so I think immigration (department) might consider this situation and they are going to allow (international) students to get a work permit but it might take a couple of more months so our life plan is stretched over and people are stressed.”