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Public conciliator to start drafting new teachers' pay proposal Wednesday

Meelis Virkebau.
Meelis Virkebau. Source: ERR

Estonian Public Conciliator Meelis Virkebau will put forward a new compromise proposal to both teachers and the state next week. Virkebau pointed out however, that the draft state budget is now "locked" and the government will not provide extra funds in order to raise teachers' salaries.

Despite continuing disagreement between the state and teachers during salary negotiations, Estonian Public Conciliator Meelis Virkebau  remains optimistic. "If I didn't believe there was any possibility of reaching an agreement, we would have ended this labor dispute procedure already. However, we still foresee that possibility and that is why we are working on new draft conciliation proposals," said Virkebau.

However, if he sees no signs of an agreement being reached, he is prepared to take the necessary next steps.

"If I see no hope of an agreement between the parties, I will sign the record of disagreement. And the day after that, teachers s will have the right to strike," explained Virkebau.

Virkebau noted that despite rejecting his conciliatory offer as a whole, the Ministry of Education and Research was very supportive of his proposal to restructure the education sector and to set up working groups to deal with teachers' working conditions, career models and the demands placed on them.

 Virkebau will start working on new conciliatory offers on Wednesday. "We have just received a reply from the ministry this morning and hope to be able to put our ideas on paper by the start of next week," he said.

He added that the hope is to hold another conciliation meeting in the second half of next week.

Virkebau's second offer will specifically focus on pay raises for teachers. "The minimum wage for teachers next year has been the main contentious issue throughout this period," he said.

"In our subsequent proposals, we will have to take today's reality as a starting point. That is, the general position of the prime minister and the cabinet, and we will also consider the fact that the draft state budget is, so to speak, locked and no one is going to change it at the moment," he said.

According to Virkebau, the procedure for this particular labor dispute will definitely end this year.

"At the moment, of course, when it is possible for the next conciliation meeting to be depends on the minister's schedule. If everything does work out and we can organize a conciliation meeting in the second half of next week, whether the procedure ends with a record of the differences or new compromises are reached between the parties and through us, depends on the outcome of the conciliation meeting," Virkebau said.

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.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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