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Ministry finds kindergartens joining teachers strike illegal

A kindergarten.
A kindergarten. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

While kindergarten teachers are urged to join the teachers' strike set to begin on January 22, the Ministry of Education and Research and the public conciliator find it to be unlawful. Kindergartens do not yet know whether they will join the strike.

Katri Nurm, principal of the Annike Kindergarten in Tartu, said that while their teachers participated in the warning strike earlier this year, they have not decided yet whether to join the main strike starting January 22.

"But every employee who feels they want to join has that right and our support," Nurm said.

The situation is similar in the Tartu Maarjamõisa Kindergarten all 60 teachers of which participated in the warning strike. Principal Kai Kens said it is difficult to say how the kindergarten will operate during the strike, which depends on how many will join the main strike in January.

Kindergarten teachers joining the strike is questionable also because both the public conciliator and the Ministry of Education find that going on strike is legally permissible only for teachers of general education schools whom the salary dispute in question concerns. Reemo Voltri, head of the Estonian Education Personnel Union, said they believe preschool teachers are also entitled to go on strike because their pay depends on the latter. But Voltri also said that the union is not prepared to take the matter to court.

"Everyone is welcome to join the strike as everyone's salary depends on the minimum wage of teachers," he said.

Tartu Deputy Mayor Lemmit Kaplinski pointed out that the salary of kindergarten teachers does not depend on the ministry and is set by the local government but added that Tartu has always maintained the salaries of preschool teachers on par with those of schoolteachers, which it will continue to do.

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Editor: Merili Nael, Marcus Turovski

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