TALO calls for 15 percent culture sector wage bump

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A sign at a protest calling for higher wages. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Estonian Employees' Unions' Confederation (TALO) has called for a 15 percent pay increase to culture workers in Estonia with representatives of local municipalities expected to join the wage negotiations, set to begin in May.

TALO board chairman Ago Tuuling said the organization has previously consulted with the European Trade Union Confederation, who told the Estonian affiliate that the ethics of asking for a pay increase during the coronavirus crisis come out all clear.

"Asking for fair pay for valuable work is important to those who are still working and give their best, often for multiple people. We are of the mind that there should not be a situation, where we are told that wages are increased only if you are willing to lay someone else off. We have ruled that position out," Tuuling said.

TALO has set their sights on a 15 percent pay bump. This would lead the minimum wage of highly educated culture workers to go from €1,300 to €1,493. The same floor would also be imposed for qualified children and youth coaches. For workers whose pay already exceeds the minimum rate set by the agreement would also have their wages increased by 12 percent.

"We always conduct these background checks prior to negotiations and the number we wrote down has silently been discussed with the previous minister of the Ministry of Culture (Tõnis Lukas - ed) and also with the current minister (Anneli Ott - ed), it could work. And this for the reason that our minimum rate has not been increased for two years," Tuuling said.

TALO's application claims the minimum rate should also be raised for local municipality culture workers, such as pedagogues at local hobby education establishments and their pay should be harmonized with that of teachers at middle and high schools.

Tuuling said this might be hard to achieve, however. "It is a serious problem. Although we always make a claim for the local municipality unions to join us for negotiations, their pay can also be allocated from the state budget. Not directly, but through the equalization fund and whatever other measures," he explained.

The CEO of the Association of Estonian Cities and Municipalities, Veikko Luhalaid, said an invitation to negotiations has not reached them yet, but association representatives would take on a listener role during negotiations, as local municipalities have not been granted the association powers to join negotiations.

Ago Tuuling said negotiations could begin in May and some 4,000 culture workers are hopeful to receive an increase to their pay from the state budget. Tuuling hoped a third of the 5,000 local municipality culture sector workers could receive a pay bump.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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