The Ministry of Education, the Association of Estonian Cities and Municipalities (AECM), the national conciliator, and the Estonian Education Personnel Union (EHL) failed to agree on teacher salaries on Friday. The state did not offer teachers a higher salary on Friday, the offer is now expected by next Wednesday.
After Friday's meeting, Education Minister Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) will ask the coalition board on Monday for a mandate to negotiate a longer-term salary arrangement with the teachers' union. The national conciliator waits for the results before engaging in salary negotiations.
"We do not expect an increase in the minimum wage for next year because we do not have the funds in the national budget, but we would like to see a 4.3 percent increase in the salary subsidy that we will transfer to municipalities to pay teachers' salaries. It is not an issue of a 1.77 percent increase in the minimum wage, but of a 4.3 percent increase in the total pay subsidy, and it is up to local governments to decide whether teachers' salaries will also increase by 4.3 percent. In the case of public schools, we are willing to consent that this money will be transferred to the schools," Kristina Kallas said.
The minister said that there is a willingness on all sides to reach a long-term agreement. "The dispute over wages is not in anyone's best interests." The minister said that "the government has to recognize that resolving the issue is jointly the responsibility of the government and the local authorities."
According to the minister, a general strike is not legal if the negotiation procedure is still ongoing. "But I welcome the fact that we are having a socially incisive debate and hopefully it will lead to a long-term agreement."
"A government representative told us at the meeting that the government still wants to have a longer-term wage agreement, the 2025-2027 wage. There was a cooler attitude towards next year's salary," Reemo Voltri, head of the Estonian Education Personnel Union (EHL), said.
"On Wednesday, the national conciliator will make an offer, and the parties will decide whether it is acceptable to them within three days. If we will not agree with the offer, then we can start preparing for a general strike," Voltri said.
"Nobody wants a strike and everybody hopes for an agreement," the national conciliator, Meelis Virkebau, said after Friday's meeting.
The Estonian Education Personnel Union (EHL) asked for an 11 percent increase in the minimum wage for teachers by 2024. The Minister of Education and Research proposed an increase of 8 percent, but during the negotiations on the state budget, an increase of only 1.77 percent was agreed, which means an increase of €31 in gross salary.
The average teacher wage in Estonia now is 111 percent of the national average. However, this figure will be smaller next year because the pay increase will be less than the increase in the average Estonian wage.
The minimum pay for a full-time teacher in Estonia in 2023 will be €1,749, with a net salary of €1,400.
Editor: Mari Peegel, Kristina Kersa, interviewer Jane Saluorg