Friday's planned strike illegal, Estonian ministry claims in letter to schools

Protester holding a sign that reads
Protester holding a sign that reads "PARENTS SUPPORT TEACHERS!" at a protest outside the Riigikogu. October 26, 2023. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Ministry of Education and Research sent a letter to Estonia's educational institutions this week in which it claimed that the warning strike teachers are planning for Friday is illegal. Estonian Education Personnel Union (EHL) representative Reemo Voltri, however, says that the ministry's letter contains false information and demagogy.

In a letter addressed to school principals, the Ministry of Education wrote that the minimum wage agreement does not constitute a specific employment condition and thus this does not qualify as a collective labor dispute as defined in the Collective Labor Dispute Resolution Act, in response to which warning strikes are permitted.

The ministry likewise claimed that there is no labor dispute going on, rather merely "preparatory discussions."

"Wages are one of the most important employment conditions," stressed Voltri, the leader of Friday's strike, in response to the ministry's letter. "Wages are likewise very specific. The current disagreements are regarding wages; of course this is a collective labor dispute right now."

He noted that Estonia's public conciliator has accepted the labor dispute into conciliation proceedings.

"If this didn't constitute a labor dispute in terms of the law, the public conciliator wouldn't have accepted it into proceedings – their sole duty is to resolve labor disputes," he pointed out.

"Are the conditions necessary for a warning strike met?" Voltri continued. "Two and only two conditions must be met [in order to organize a] warning strike. A warning strike may not last more than one hour. That condition has been met. A planned warning strike must be notified about in writing three days at least three days in advance. That condition has also been met. The EHL is operating in direct accordance with the law, and a corresponding regulation has likewise been interpreted accordingly in court."

Thus all requirements for a warning strike have been met, and taking place this Friday will be a legal teachers' warning strike," the union rep added in his own letter to educational establishments.

Speaking to ERR, Voltri said that the Ministry of Education and Research letter is full of factual errors, false information and demagogy.

"The government is apparently panicking or trying to divert attention away from the main issue, or has started spinning the story," he commented.

The EHL announced on November 3 that as the government is dragging on wage negotiations, nor has it, unlike teachers, proposed a single specific plan for implementing their agreement, teachers across Estonia will be organizing a one-hour warning strike on Friday, November 10.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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