No positive decisions were taken at a meeting on Tuesday to negotiate an improvement in teachers' salaries. According to Estonian Minister of Education and Research Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200), Estonia cannot afford an 11 percent rise in the minimum wage for teachers in the current economic climate.
"We mapped out our positions with the teachers and I was able to confirm what we have formulated in the coalition agreement - that the average teacher's salary definitely has to increase. To this end, we are raising the teachers' salary fund from 17 percent to 20 percent," Kallas said.
"But now, specifically, regarding the minimum wage increases, this will become clear in the course of the budget negotiations, which begin in August. Teachers want the minimum wage from next year to be the same as the national average, but that means a pay rise of nearly 11 percent, which is a very big pay rise. We really don't see that we can implement that much of pay rise at the moment," the minister added.
"Because we have a recession, we have to make cuts to the budget. However, I agree with that we should have an increase in teachers' salaries next year, regardless of whether we have a recession or budget cuts, and in fact, that is what we are working on," Kallas said.
Reemo Voltri, head of the Estonian Education Personnel Union (EEPU), said that the salary negotiations had not been very promising, with the coalition not agreeing to raise the minimum salary for teachers next year. However, it is precisely this issue, which teachers are most interested in. Teachers who work full-time, or 35 hours a week, are paid at the minimum rate.
"The minimum wage is currently 95 percent of the national average. If the minimum wage does not increase next year, it means that the minimum wage for teachers will fall compared to the average, and it will fall to the level it was at in 2019," Voltri said.
However, Voltri also got the impression from the minister's speech and the meeting in general, that when negotiations on the state budget strategy for next year start in August, the minister will still go there with the desire to raise the minimum wage for teachers.
"I would wait until August, though. We have already agreed on the next round of negotiations for September. However, within the framework of the mandate given to me by the teachers, I am relatively disappointed at the moment and still very concerned about the sustainability of our education [system]," Voltri said.
According to Voltri, there are currently 3,500 teachers in Estonia who are not fully qualified. "We could say in fact, that what we really need are qualified teachers to replace them. So, we can talk about 3,500 people, who we are lacking," Voltri said, adding that if the minimum wage for teachers does not go up, it will send a bad signal to young people who may be considering entering the profession.
Situation improving for teachers in Ida-Viru County.
From the starting of the next academic year, teachers in Ida-Viru County who teach using Estonian as the language of instruction, will receive 1.5 times the amount of pay than those working elsewhere. In practice, this means a monthly salary of around €3,000.
"From the fall, this pay measure comes into force for teachers who meet the language requirements. As far as we understand, this measure will also mean qualified teachers or teachers who meet the requirements can still be recruited in the region. Surely teachers from other parts of Estonia, who are at the right stage in their careers, will go there, because after all, there is a pay difference of 50 percent," Voltri said.
In 2023, the minimum monthly salary for teachers is due to rise from €1,412 to €1,749, an increase of 23.9 percent. The EEPU has requested an increase in the minimum teacher salary to €1,845 per month in 2023. According to data provided by Statistics Estonia, the average salary in Estonia in March 2023 was €1,810.
Editor: Michael Cole