There are no further funds in the Ministry of Education's budget, which can be used to raise teachers' salaries, and the upcoming strike will force the parties to renegotiate in January, Estonian Minister of Education Minister Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) said on ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera."
On Tuesday, Reemo Voltri, chair of the Estonian Educational Personnel Union (EHL), announced that the teachers' strike would start on January 22. According to the education minister, there is no more money in the ministry's budget for next year, which could be used to prevent the strike.
"I have nothing more to take from the education ministry's line in next year's budget, in the sense that all the expenses have been allocated, all the decisions have been made in that regard, and there is no more surplus money to cut back from next year's budget. We have found the extra €8 million for the increase in the teachers' minimum wage, and that is how much the minimum wage will rise by next year. But that is all the money I can take from the state budget," the minister said.
Kallas added that the situation of the state budget as a whole means there is no additional money available. "The €10 million that would be needed for a five percent increase in the minimum wage could theoretically be taken out as a loan, but we know that taking out a loan to pay salaries is the wrong way to go," she said.
According to Kallas, the planned strike will force the parties involved to renegotiate in order to find solutions. She added that the problem was broader than just the wage issue.
"The crisis we are facing in education is the result of certain things not being done for a number of years. It's not just a question of teachers' minimum salaries, it's also a question of the turnover of teachers, of not having enough teachers in the next generation. It is a question of teachers being overburdened. If teachers were required to work less for the same minimum wage as they are on today, then we would probably not have this strike. No crisis ought to be wasted. Let's use this current crisis to solve these problems for teachers too," said Kallas.
"We have a number of other issues that I feel the strike is forcing us to come to the table for and forcing the municipalities to come to the table. So, from practically January 1 next year, a new negotiation process will start, in which we hope to reach an agreement on salaries for 2025, 2026 and 2027, as well as an agreement on teachers' workloads and career model, because teachers have major concerns there," she added.
What the government's pain threshold will be for the duration of the teachers' strike is difficult to say, according to Kallas.
Editor: Michael Cole