The Estonian state has to make an effort to reach an agreement with teachers, because every child has the constitutional right to an education, former Estonian Minister of Education Liina Kersna (Reform) told ERR.
"As the goal is to raise the average salary of teachers to 120 percent of the national average, we must not allow that ratio to decrease. In that case, we will have fallen short of our target," said Kersna, who was education minister from 2021–2022.
This year, the average salary for teachers is 111.5 percent of the national average. "With the current decisions, whereby teachers' salary fund will increase by 4.3 percent, due to an additional €23.7 million for teachers' pay, the average teacher's salary will fall to 109.5 percent of the national average," Kersna said.
According to Kersna, in order for the average teacher salary to be 112 percent of the national average next year, for example, an additional €13.6 million would need to be allocated from the state budget. "In this case, the wage fund would increase by 6.6 percent (minimum + differentiation fund of 20 percent). This would be more than the offer made by the public conciliator, which was rejected by the educational workers," she explained.
"In our time, when we fought for teacher pay rises. We worked hard to bring the average teacher's salary up to the national average. In the budget talks, we got a five percent increase. On top of that, we added almost €10 million from within the sector to reach the national average," added Kersna.
The Estonian Education Personnel Union (EHL) wants an 11 percent pay rise for teachers next year, but has said that even an eight percent rise would be enough to ensure industrial peace. It is still possible for educational workers to oppose the government and agree to accept a lower pay rise next year. However, this would require them to reach a collective agreement on raising teachers' pay to 120 percent of the Estonian average over the coming years.
Last week, the Estonian Public Conciliator proposed raising the minimum pay rate by 4.3 percent for qualified teachers and 1.77 percent for unqualified teachers. However, according to EHL chief Reemo Voltri, the union does not agree with that proposal. The public conciliator can now respond with a new proposal.
Editor: Michael Cole