Minister of Education and Research Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) and Reemo Voltri, head of the Estonian Education Personnel Union, said on the "Terevisioon" morning show on Wednesday that they are trying to reach a satisfactory compromise in the matter of teachers' salaries. Teachers are prepared to go on strike should that not happen.
"We remain hopeful. We know that the minister has realized or is aware of the extent of the problem, that the situation of teachers in Estonia and looming teacher shortage are problematic. I can see willingness to solve the problem in my partner's eyes, and we left the negotiating table with a measure of careful optimism," Voltri offered.
The union chair said that the pay of teachers should start from the national average salary. "It will reach €1,845 next year. While that is what we are asking for, we realize that going from €1,412 to €1,845 would be a huge leap and remain open to compromises. We discussed where that compromise could lie."
Minister Tõnis Lukas said that Isamaa aims for the average salary of teachers to be 25 percent higher than the national average. "It needs to be done. I have made my proposals as minister," Lukas said.
"The salary of teachers as specialists with higher education should at the very least match the average pay in that group. The latter is nearing €2,000 a month. Talking about the first step on the road toward teachers' average salaries, before getting to major goals, it should start at the €2,000 mark," Lukas suggested.
"Teacher training and whether we can switch to Estonian in schools that currently teach in Russian directly depends on whether we can motivate good people to continue teaching and become teachers," he said.
"Estonia is looking in the mirror in terms of what the budget can be. Whereas it is a strained look in the conditions of economic crisis and war. But it is clear that we need to find the financial levers with which to keep society from falling apart."
Lukas highlighted the need to bring down teachers' workload, address matters of class teachers' bonuses and a career model that would see senior teachers paid more. "That also requires money. But that would be competing with the salary advance in the budget so to speak. Therefore, we are talking about much more than just the base salary hike in terms of what I'm seeking," Lukas said.
Lukas: Strike would not be good for progeny
Talking about a potential teachers' strike, Reemo Voltri said teachers are on standby.
"A lot of teachers are willing to go on strike to protect our world-class education. At the same time, we have taken a step toward a potential compromise and are waiting for the outcome of budget talks and a decision by the government," Voltri said.
"Teachers definitely do not want to strike. They are prepared to, while we would rather do our jobs and teach children. But provided we will not see meaningful pay rise to more or less match the current inflation rate, it is a step we will need to take for the sake of young people, to motivate them to pick up this fantastic trade. Let us wait a few more weeks, which is when we will be able to take the next steps."
Lukas said that he hopes it will prove possible to avoid a strike as it would come with negative effects.
"A strike would not be good for progeny. It sends a very poor message. It would also negatively impact our entire education and schools aura. That is why I will be trying to deliver schools and prevent the strike from taking place," the minister said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski