Following a meeting with the public conciliator on Wednesday, Reemo Voltri, the leader of the Estonian Education Personnel Union, said that the union has reached an agreement to cancel its planned strike if the minimum wage for teachers increases by 8 percent or less the following year, but also specific wage increases are agreed for the years to come.
"When Minister of Education Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) told the public conciliator that she planned to ask the government for an 8 percent rise in the minimum wage – if we are talking about next year only – we assured her that strikes would not go through," Voltri said.
According to him, the so-called long-term pay rise plan proposed by Kristina Kallas is suitable for educators.
"If the state and government currently assert that locating such funds is unattainable, then we, who are deeply concerned about the long-term state of education in Estonia and who do not wish to go on strike under whatever circumstance, are willing to make a modest compromise on this 8 percent deal, but only under the condition that we are presented with a highly specific collective bargaining agreement that includes wage hikes for the upcoming years," Voltri said.
According to the head of the Estonian Education Personnel Union (EHL) in the long term the aim is to reach the target of making teachers' salaries comparable to those of other higher education employees.
"In Estonia, as we know, a teacher is a specialist with a higher education, or even a master's degree, and from this point of view it is in fact critical, because the minimum wage for teachers is 25 percent lower than for other higher education employees; this is also the reason why there is such a shortage of teachers in Estonia," Voltri said.
"Next year's wage hikes for teachers are certainly necessary to alleviate this dire situation," he said.
Voltri said that a decision concerning the potential likelihood of the strike will be made by the following week at the latest. The strike could then occur at most two weeks later, in the third week of November.
Monday marked a bilateral meeting between Education Minister Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) and public conciliator Meelis Virkebauk to deliberate on potential compromise strategies with the Estonian Education Personnel Union. "My job is to prevent a strike," the minister told ERR. Virkebau has scheduled a meeting with municipalities after meeting with educators' representatives. Following this, all involved parties will convene at the negotiating table.
Editor: Mari Peegel, Kristina Kersa