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Tartu teachers' strike participation depends on local collective agreement

Kindergarten Krõll in Tartu.
Kindergarten Krõll in Tartu. Source: ERR

The city of Tartu has not yet signed its annual collective agreement with the local educational personnel union as several differences still need to be worked out. But the city hopes to ink the agreement and keep Tartu schools from participating in next year's education workers' strike.

"The agreement is signed annually. We are in the middle of negotiations for the 2024 collective agreement. If we can reach an agreement with the unions, we could sign it in early January," said Riho Raave, head of Tartu City Government's education department.

He said that the collective agreement bans striking, which would allow Tartu teachers to join their colleagues only for a three-day show of solidarity. Tartu has 30 municipal kindergartens and 31 general education schools of which the local government runs 22.

Raave remarked that the main point of contention is which additional benefits will be included in the collective agreement and which aspects will remain up to educational institutions to decide for themselves.

"We are trying to strike a balance because the more resources we tie up in the collective agreement, the more constrained schools' chances of offering additional benefits. Whether we're talking about salaries, vacation days, health days etc.," Raave said.

When it comes to salaries, the city is only negotiating mandatory minimums.

"While the minimum salary of teachers is no lower in Tartu than it is elsewhere in Estonia, we need to ensure equal pay for other teaching specialists, such as support specialists and kindergarten teachers."

Reemo Voltri, head of the Estonian Education Personnel Union (EHL), said that the talks in Tartu are mainly centered around additional benefits but added that any collective agreement between EHL and the ministry in 2024 will also apply to Tartu teachers.

There are another three schools in Estonia that have or are about to sign collective agreements with the local government. They are the Suure-Jaani School (Põhja-Sakala Municipality), Viljandi Jakobsoni School (City of Viljandi) and Võsu School (Haljala Municipality).

Section 11, subsection 3 of the Collective Agreements Act obligates the sides to comply with the conditions of the collective agreement and not go on strike against said conditions. As an exception, parties to a collective agreement can join a support strike for three days.

Teachers in Estonia are set to go on strike for an unspecified time from January 22.

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Editor: Mari Peegel, Marcus Turovski

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