By Alice Lunáková, international columnist
When the first rumours about the possibility of a faculty strike started to go around, I did not pay much attention to it.
I considered it empty talk based on my experience from my homeland, Czech Republic. It happens from time to time that teachers, bus drivers, doctors and other people who work for the state threaten to go on strike for various reasons – most of the time it is a question of salaries. However, they rarely actually go on strike. And if they do, it would be never for more than twenty-four hours, or less. Strikes are largely symbolical there.
I can only recollect one strike that happened in my country. The employees of public transportation went on strike for one day in June 2011. It was the biggest strike that my country has ever had. All trains across the country and the subway in the capital, Prague, were out of service. Most of the buses, trams or trolleybuses in cities did not operate.
Even though the politicians were strongly against the strike and claimed that a total collapse would follow, the strike went off without a hitch. People took out their bikes or roller skates and set off to work. Some decided to stay in and therefore there were less cars in the streets as well. Children were also pleased, because there were no real classes. Everybody was enjoying the calmnessl those who were at work finished earlier and went out to have a drink. After twenty-four hours, everything got back to normal.
When it was officially confirmed that the teachers would go on strike at the Laurentian University, I was expecting the same thing. Everybody would take a day off, have a nice time with friends, maybe go to the movies at night. The following day we would meet with teachers again, say one or two sentences about the strike and life would go on. How wrong I was!
I now understand that when teachers go on strike here, they mean it. They will not budge. It can last several days or even weeks. Such a long strike would never happen in my country. It is simply not in our mentality.
I was curious and asked other international students about strikes in their countries. Christina from Germany highlighted that it is very unlikely that teachers would go on strike there. Even though strikes can be frequent in Italy, they would never last more than one days, according to Jessica.
Elin, from Sweden, expresses that “strikes in general are not a common thing in my country.”
Spanish student Rebeca says that, “teachers usually do not go on strike, but students do because the fees are too high. Teacher give classes no matter what.” Regarding the length of strikes, she claims it would be only for one day.
Even in France, which is rather infamous for strikes, “there has not been such a long strike for a long time,“ summarizes French student Ludivine. As it can be seen, all the international students who come from Europe are experiencing a new thing.
Although I am not happy at all about this situation and I miss my classes a lot, there is at least one positive thing. As a big enthusiast for languages, I was pleased to learn a new expression: a picket line. I was reading the information about the strike on the website, and somebody was asking about “crossing a picket line”. Since we do not have any picket lines when striking in Czech, I had to look it up. I am sure I will never forget this word now. We learn something new every day, even when there is a strike!
The Lambda will continue to post updates on the strike as it unfolds at thelambda.ca.