The Estonian Educational Personnel Union (EHL) is entering talks with the Ministry of Education and Research on Tuesday in which it is aiming to secure premiums for more experienced teachers. This would involve some €150 million in extra funding per year.
The wage reform implemented in 2013 balanced out the wages of junior and senior educators. Educator ranks as such were later abolished altogether, and the minimum wage for all teachers was harmonized.
"When a young person comes to work at school and sees that they have absolutely no opportunity whatsoever to increase their salary over that of a new teacher, either via their personal development or their years of professional experience, this is absolutely demotivating," EHL chairman Reemo Voltri said.
While Finland and Denmark, for example, employ seniority-based professional ranks, Estonia's Ministry of Education believes that salaries should be based on the differentiated principle of who does more, earns more.
"It should definitely be more flexible than simply [years of] professional experience," said Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna (Reform). "In many countries, teachers move within the career model based on how long they have been working in the field. I believe that this should be more flexible and diverse, based on how a teacher has contributed to their work — such as by creating educational materials which are essential tools for others as well, or for example working in a small class with children with special education needs (SEN). This is all a matter of negotiation."
School principals do currently have an opportunity at their disposal to differentiate various educators' salaries — by using buffer money. The educators' union, however, would prefer to see a national model that would also reflect a teacher's years worked.
"If I achieve some sort of salary level at one school and am forced for whatever reason to switch schools, should I have to start all over from the lowest level again?" Voltri asked. "This should be a national model that ensures teachers fixed additional wages via some sort of definite system."
Teachers, meanwhile, want to see a system in which additional wages are paid for both years worked as well as for completing continuing training.
"If you attend training and work on personally developing yourself, then you have more motivation for this as well," explained Heleriin Paeoja, a teacher in Estonia. "You know that you can earn even more — that there is something to strive toward. I believe that there is the additional factor that, from the point of view of more senior teachers who already have 10-20 years of experience teaching in schools, this may also cause resentment."
Wage negotiations with the Ministry of Education are slated to begin Tuesday. According to the EHL's calculations, their career model would require an additional some €150 million per year in funding.
Editor: Aili Vahtla