Interior and education ministers oppose public sector workers' pay freeze

Lauri Läänemets and Kristina Kallas
Lauri Läänemets and Kristina Kallas Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Estonian Minister of Finance Mart Võrklaev (Reform) is planning to freeze the pay of public sector employees, including teachers, rescue workers and cultural workers. Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) and Minister of Education Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) oppose the proposal as the pay gaps in their sectors are already large.

In order to save on costs, Minister of Finance Mart Võrklaev (Reform) wants to freeze the pay of all public sector employees. This would mean salaries could only be raised by making layoffs. In addition to ministry officials, the cuts would also affect teachers, rescue workers and the police, who are already currently feeling the financial strain.

"Of course, we need people in the public sector, we need good people, but this will motivate ministers, chancellors, deputy chancellors to look around their own departments, to ask themselves whether all the things we are doing are necessary. And what has often happened is that the number of civil servants begins to decrease, while at the same time it is possible to increase the salaries of certain people," said Võrklaev.

Minister of Education Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) however, is against Võrklaev's plan. She said that it was not possible to freeze the salaries of all public sector employees as there is already a large pay gap. Instead, Kallas said, savings should be sought by cutting bureaucratic jobs.

"We have a great deal of work, procedures, reporting, analyses that is not reasonable, that the state does and that the state commissions and has written into laws and regulations. These need to be reviewed and I think there will be some decent savings there," Kallas said.

"In my own administration, I have also actually identified activities, where people have been hired to do something. And if we were to do away with these procedures, it would turn out that nothing would get worse in terms of quality, in terms of the country, or in public services, I think there are quite a few of these activities in every ministry's administration," he added.

Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) said that the most recent pay rise only brought the salaries of rescue workers level with the national average, and that if the plan to cut back comes into force, the minimum wage may be back on the cards.

"I think that this view that we will stop everything for four years is wrong. Because we shouldn't see it as a cost, we should see it as an investment. Investing in the people who are involved in health, education or internal security actually ensures that we can make better progress in the economy and as a society," Läänemets said.

The decision on whether or not to freeze public sector wages will be taken in September.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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