Only local governments can guarantee teachers an average salary of 120 percent of the Estonian average in 2027, but this also requires additional funds from the state budget, said Minister of Education Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) on Tuesday.
Asked about the proposal for long-term salary rises, Kallas said there are three points for negotiations with unions and local governments: local governments, school network reform, and the development of teachers' salary and career model.
"The first point is the wage subsidy or the money that the state pays to local governments, and there are indeed state obligations to help teachers' salaries up to 120 percent with the wage subsidy, but the role of the local government is also very important here, because they are the ones who pay the actual salary," Kallas said.
"In other words, in order to ensure that the salaries of teachers will be 120 percent of the Estonian average, for example in 2027, this can only be ensured by local governments, and therefore the issue of salary support can be negotiated with them but, of course, this requires the state to provide additional funds from the state budget," the minister said.
The second important factor is school network reform.
"We have a very large proportion of teacher posts and resources, as well as financial resources, locked up today in small high schools across Estonia. We have about 44 small high schools with less than 100 students per upper secondary school – there is still a proposal for 37 municipalities to start negotiations to transfer schools to the state," Kallas said.
The minister said the third point is the development of a salary and career framework. This would mean teachers with more experience and qualifications would receive higher salaries.
"So that we also have agreed working conditions and workload calculations, and this needs to be agreed with the teachers and the municipalities. This is what teachers also expect, that we should not only talk about the minimum wage, but we should actually talk about workload, and whether we have enough teachers to fill the ever-increasing number of teaching posts in Estonia," said Kallas.
The national conciliator's pay rise compromise proposal between education and the government will be announced tomorrow.
"When it comes tomorrow, the government will start to discuss it, but my proposal was really that, first of all, since next year the teachers' salary support fund will still increase by 4.3 percent, the municipalities should also take responsibility for transferring this 4.3 percent to the teachers' salary fund and the teachers should receive this salary increase," said the minister.
"And the second suggestion was that we could start negotiating a long-term plan with local authorities and teachers' unions," she added.
The Estonian Educational Personnel Union (EEPU) requested an 11 percent increase for teachers by 2024, but a rise of only 1.77 percent was found in the budget negotiations. This will add approximately €31 a month. The Minister of Education and Research initially suggested 8 percent.
The EEPU turned to the national conciliator with the dispute on October 2.
After the national conciliator makes its proposal, all parties will have three days to decide how to move forward. If it is rejected. the EEPU has said it will strike.
In 2023, the minimum monthly salary for teachers is due to rise from €1,412 to €1,749, an increase of 23.9 percent. According to data provided by Statistics Estonia, the average salary in Estonia in March 2023 was €1,810.
Editor: Jüri Nikolajev, Mari Peegel, Helen Wright