Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) apologized to teachers for her words at a government press conference on Thursday.
"First and foremost, I sincerely apologize for my inadequate response to journalists' questions at Thursday's press conference. I apologize for offending the teachers by suggesting that they advocate the car tax during the strike in order for the state to raise their salary. It was an insensitive, irrelevant and pointless remark," Kallas wrote on her social media account on Saturday.
On Thursday, Kallas replied to ERR journalist Madis Hindre's question about the strike, saying that it would have no effect: "It will not bring us any money. If they go on strike and entice people to support, or accept, the car tax, the funds would be available to raise further teachers' salaries."
Kallas also said during a press conference that teachers' salaries increased by 24 percent last year and that they are the only state employees whose compensation will rise in the coming year.
"Along with the apologies, I'd like to explain why this thought occurred to me in the first place. The national budget is a complete disaster. However, I think that both the administration and I have clearly prioritized teacher pay and working conditions. We are not making any cuts in this area. Also, when we set the budget last year, we increased teacher pay by 24 percent. Teachers are the only ones whose compensation will raise this year, in addition to the differentiating fund and the initial subsidies, which will provide additional funds for the transition to teaching in Estonian only. Even the elimination of the tax hump will contribute significantly to improving the earnings of teachers, rescuers, and police officers in 2025," the prime minister wrote.
"In terms of education spending, Estonia is third in the European Union. At the same conference, I spoke at length about this, offering both data and potential remedies to the problem. In the case of teachers, the key here is the reorganization of the school network, which is also an unpleasant but necessary reform," Kallas wrote.
"However, two clear conclusions have come from this entire budgetary cleaning up process: no one group in society supports any tax hike, while everyone calls for an increase in government spending. Agreements to improve the state of the budget fall apart even within the coalition when an interest group or the press oppose to a measure," the Reform Party chair wrote.
"The frustration of being under such intense pressure caused me to slip up blunders in my statements. Don't get me wrong: what I really intended to say was that at least one interest group may occasionally speak out in favor of increasing the revenue side of the national budget. All government spending, including teacher salaries, is paid for by taxpayers. And the outrage over the tax discussion demonstrates that the taxpayer does not want to pay more. Every new cost and increase in the salary of people in public employment (41 percent of whom are educators and researchers) puts more strain on taxpayers' wallets," the prime minister wrote.
Editor: Mait Ots, Kristina Kersa