Minister of Education Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) has proposed a compromise to avoid teachers going on strike that prescribes hiking the salary of teachers to 120 percent of the national average over the next four years.
Kallas met with Public Conciliator Meelis Virkebau to discuss a compromise with the Estonian Education Personnel Union. "It is my task to avoid a strike," the minister said.
She told ERR that it is "very difficult" to facilitate a pay rise of more than 1.7 percent (as proposed by the government following state budget talks – ed.) "because the state's financial situation is extremely difficult." Kallas said it would take a political decision in the parliament and taking resources away from somewhere else at this stage.
"There is no more money coming as the draft budget is in the hands of the Riigikogu. Should the parliament decide to facilitate teachers' wishes, the question is where would the money come from."
She added that while teachers' salaries do not come from the ministry's budget and can therefore be taken from other expenses, it would still require cutting someone else's budget.
The minister said she would like to reach a long-term compromise. "I proposed a plan during state budget deliberations of how to pay teachers 120 percent of the national average salary in four years' time. "It is imperative that we agree on the plan and reach that 120 percent hike," Kallas added.
Reesi Kuslap, who teaches at the Viimsi High School, told ERR that she is willing to go on strike. "I'm a member of the Estonian Education Personnel Union and I feel obligated to participate in the strike," Kuslap said.
The teacher said that the strike is needed to avoid it becoming an empty threat that no one takes seriously, as well as because it is a matter of the future of Estonian education and the teaching profession. "Perhaps a strike would help raise awareness in society to suggest that it is everyone's problem. It is a problem for the Estonian society," she said.
The public conciliator is meeting with sides to the dispute. Virkebau is set to meet with the Estonian Education Personnel Union on Wednesday, which will be followed by meetings with local government representatives and finally culminate in a three-way meeting.
There are local governments where teachers already get paid 120 percent of the national average and more, while teachers are paid less than the national average in others. The average gross salary was €1,873 in the second quarter of 2023.
Editor: Mari Peegel, Marcus Turovski