In an interview on Klassikaraadio, Minister of Culture Piret Hartman praised Estonia's top cultural organizations for demanding increases to salaries and operating grants, in an open letter sent to the government on Wednesday. Hartman also confirmed, that the issue will be a top priority for the Ministry of Culture in the state budget negotiations.
Hartman believes, that it is important that the sector addresses the issue of salaries and operating grants collectively. "This is an extremely big challenge, and the Ministry of Culture has presented it as one of the priorities in the negotiations on the culture budget, Hartman said. " I am pleased that the (cultural) sector is helping to draw attention to (the issue)," she added.
"On the one hand, these are state employees in the cultural sector, and we want to increase their salaries next year," Hartman said. "On the other hand, an overall increase in expenditure is also important for us. At the moment, all prices and costs are going up, so we are also asking for an increase in (funds to cover) operating costs in the state budget negotiations. We are now asking for almost €13 million euros for this," the minister explained.
The Minister of Culture said that, at present, the precise amount of a potential salary increase for those working in the cultural sphere, remains unclear. "At the moment, we are asking for an increase to the wage fund. Once negotiations have started, we will begin discussing how much it makes sense to increase the minimum wage by, and to what extent to leave it up to the heads of institutions decide on the salaries for (those in) various roles," Hartman explained.
"At the beginning of the year, we were able to present five priorities. Now, we have the salaries issue on the table as the first priority, with the increase in operating costs as second priority," said Hartman, adding that issue of physical activity was the ministry's third priority. According to Hartman, the Youth Singing and Dance Festival, which is due to be organized in 2023 was the fourth item on the priority list, with social cohesion the fifth most pressing issue for the ministry.
According to Hartman, the public letter demonstrates that there is great unity amongst those in the cultural sector, adding that the issue is not only a priority for the Ministry of Culture.
"It shows that the sector is very concerned about what is going to happen next, because if we want Estonian culture to develop, or if we want it to be able to continue (developing), even at the current rate, we have to value and respect the people who work in the (cultural) sector," said Hartman.
"I completely agree, that this increase in the wage fund, will have an impact on the salaries of people in our administration, and when we talk about the increase in operating costs, that also affects our partners," she said, adding that the issue is also a big concern for those working in local governments, who are involved in the development of Estonian culture.
"In the coming weeks, we will be meeting with the Association of Estonian Cities and Rural Municipalities to find solutions which can help local cultural organizers in relation to the salary issue," Hartman said.
Editor: Michael Cole