Lauri Läänemets, head of the Social Democratic Party and Estonia's minister of the interior, said that the government has ten times more reason to raise teachers' salaries than to refuse the demand.
Läänemets said on the "Esimene stuudio" talk show Wednesday that he is convinced the government will find a way to raise the salaries of teachers. But he admitted that because the 2024 draft budget has already been sent to the parliament, teachers' salaries cannot be changed this year.
"I believe the Reform Party cannot imagine teachers' salaries not growing in 2025 or 2026 either. /.../ I believe we will be able to negotiate a salary advance for 2025 and 2026," he said.
"We have a coalition government and any solution requires consensus in the end. We do not have it today. But we also have no agreement not to raise teachers' wages," Läänemets said.
He added that teachers going on strike might make politicians understand there is more speaking in favor of a salary advance than against.
"I think we should not have a strike. Children should be entitled to a good education and teachers to being able to do their work. And this is not me urging teachers not to go on strike," he said.
"I'm sure it [the teachers' strike] could further demonstrate how strikes paralyze the economy and people's everyday work. Especially if we consider the security situation and what it may collide with, I believe the government has ten times more reason to agree on a pay rise for teachers – and a considerable one at that – than it does to hold back," Läänemets said.
But the Social Democrats are against closing smaller rural schools in order to find money for teachers' salaries.
Läänemets also said that police and rescue wages must also go up.
"Talking about the need to fix the state budget, I very much agree. But it cannot happen at the expense of public servants. We cannot lay the burden on the shoulders of teachers, social and cultural workers and rescuers every time we set about fixing the budget. It makes no sense."
In light of Finland closing its border crossing points with Russia, Läänemets said the country is experiencing a serious crisis of illegal migrants arriving on the border as decisions to close border crossings are not made lightly.
Estonia remains ready should pressure on its borders start to increase. "We are ready as all cases where Estonia has helped other countries ward off illegal border crossings have served as preparation for what might happen or what is currently happening in Finland," the interior minister said, adding that Russian special services are facilitating the migrant arrivals today.
Editor: Merili Nael, Marcus Turovski