The government froze public sector wages for next year in budget negotiations, with only teachers receiving an increase, but less than promised. The Estonian Trade Union Confederation (EAKL) says the decision was made in haste and could worsen public sector pay levels.
The average salary in the public sector last year was €2,072. The year-on-year increase was almost 12 percent. On Tuesday, the government decided not to increase public sector wages next year. Teachers are the only exception, with a 1.7 percent increase in the minimum wage.
"This probably takes us back to the last major economic crisis, 2008–2009. Let's say, maybe the tone with which this decision was announced, the concreteness, or the resolution—I don't remember anything like that from the last time," Jaan-Hendrik Toomel, chair of the Estonian Trade Union Confederation, said.
Education Minister Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) had previously proposed raising the minimum wage for teachers by eight percent. During the budget talks, however, an increase of half that amount was agreed: €10 million were earmarked for the minimum wage increase and €14 million for bonuses.
"Today, it is 111 percent of the Estonian average. Unfortunately, next year it [teachers' salary] will fall in relation to the Estonian average because the increase in wages is not as high as the increase in the Estonian average," the minister said. "But my plan is to catch up next year," she added.
Other public sector employees are also concerned about the widening wage gap.
"For years, the rescue sector has been moving in the direction of improving its average salary level—the ratio to the average salary level. Now, if it is frozen, it will get worse again," Toomel said.
Culture Minister Heidy Purga (Reform), however, does not see the lack of a salary increase for cultural workers as a cause for concern.
"The outcome of the state budget negotiations is positive. Even though salaries will not increase, we have found additional funds to provide opportunities for creators to be paid fairly, for example," she said.
The author's compensation fund, which awards authors for library lending, will receive an additional €1 million, and Film Estonia will receive an additional €2 million.
Editor: Merili Nael, Kristina Kersa