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Local governments weighing whether to keep paying teachers during strike

The warning strike at Kiili High School, Harju County.
The warning strike at Kiili High School, Harju County. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Teachers will go on strike in Estonia from January 22 and should not be paid for its duration as they do not plan to be working. But the city of Tallinn has decided to continue paying its teachers also during the strike action.

While people who decide to stop working for the duration of a strike are usually not paid, this logic will not apply to teachers of Tallinn's schools from January 22.

"We stand ready to support teachers during their strike, which means we will continue paying their salaries so they can concentrate fully on collective agreement negotiations," Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart said.

But the city will only be retaining the pay of teachers in schools that offer elementary school children activities during the day and kindergartens that keep at least one group open.

"The interests of students and society in general will come out on top in the end, so no strike can last forever," Kõlvart also said.

Harku Municipality, which already pays its teachers 121 percent of the national average salary of teaching professionals, said that it will decide its course of action in January, once the extent of the planned strike becomes clear.

"Today, we are leaning toward not paying teachers during the strike as continuing to pay teachers for not teaching would muddy the point of a strike," said Robert Lippin, the municipality's deputy mayor.

Jõelähtme and Lääne-Nigula municipalities are set to decide whether to keep paying teachers on Thursday.

Reemo Voltri, head of the Estonian Education Personnel Union that is organizing the strike, said that while no salary is due during a strike, schools could pay teachers the money after the strike is over.

"We must not harm education, which is why I hope we can agree in all local governments that teachers will work that much harder after the strike and be paid for missed income at the end of the year," Voltri suggested.

Robert Lippin said that while working with greater intensity after the strike is mainly looked at from the point of view of teachers right now, it must also be considered whether students are up to the task.

A teacher paid the profession's minimum wage is set to lose €75 for every day on strike. While teachers should be eligible for financial support from the union's strike fund, Reemo Voltri refused to say how much money is in the pot. He also did not say how many teachers could count on support from the fund.

"I could, but won't," were Voltri's words.

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Editor: Merili Nael, Marcus Turovski

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