As the Ontario college faculty strike approaches the one-month mark, students in Thunder Bay, Ont. are growing increasingly worried about how the drawn-out work action could impact everything from travel plans to job prospects.
The strike, which began on October 16, is now into its fourth week, affecting students at 24 colleges across the province.
"We're all upset. Stressed out. We're concerned," said Kescia Yeomans, a second year paramedic student at Confederation College.
Yeomans said she and her classmates have been anxious to return to their studies.
But her biggest concern is that the strike might cause her to lose out on a job.
If graduation is delayed, Yeomans said she's worried that she and her classmates will miss out, since local emergency services are expected to be on the hunt for new staff in the spring.
"I'm hoping we get back to school as soon as we can," she said.
Unique concerns for international students
International students have their own concerns about work, said Mohammed Moideen, a student who came to Confederation College from India for the school's engineering, business and safety management program.
Students from abroad are limited to working 20 hours per week during class time, he said, but that's bumped up to 40 hours per week during breaks, such as the Christmas holiday. But the winter break is expected to be shortened due to the strike.
"If we get a decrease in [a] semester break, that's the only time that we work and make some money for the [next] semester," he said. "That's going to be a big problem for us."
The strike has been "frustrating," and "really hard," for international students he said, because they pay such high tuition. Students such as Moideen are paying upwards of $35,000 for a two-year program, he said.
Home for the holidays? Maybe not
The strike could also impact holiday travel plans for some students who were planning to fly home in December.
That's the case for John Holmes, a second year film student from Nova Scotia.
"I haven't been home to see my family in about eight months," he said, "I had my ticket booked for the 15th but it looks like I'm going to have to cancel that."
Confederation College has stated that no plans can be confirmed until the strike ends, but the school does expect the Christmas break will be shortened and that the winter semester will start late.
College faculty will cast ballots next week on whether to accept an offer from the College Employer Council, in a vote organized by the Ontario Labour Relations Board.