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Tartu teachers postpone signing of collective agreement with city

Classroom blackboard. Photo is illustrative.
Classroom blackboard. Photo is illustrative. Source: Ministry of Education and Research

Due to be inked by local governments and the City of Tartu this Friday, a collective agreement affecting thousands of education workers in Tartu and Tartu County and which would prevent teachers there from participating in a general strike is being put on indefinite hold after Tartu teachers decided they won't be signing.

Late last month, Riho Raave, director of Tartu city government's Department of Education, had said that fundamental agreements had been reached between negotiating parties and that the date of signing had been set for January 5. On Wednesday it emerged, however, that Tartu education workers won't be signing the agreement after all.

"There are clauses that still need to be discussed," said Tiiu Laan, director of the Tartu County Education Personnel Trade Union (TMHA). "Our discussion went unfinished somehow, and we want to pick it up again in January. We can't yet sign such an undeveloped collective agreement."

Raave has previously said that the final remaining issue had been which additional benefits aimed at reconciling family and work life and to what extent are reasonable to agree on in a citywide collective agreement, and what educational institutions themselves should provide for in their rules of work organization.

When the agreement may be signed depends on how accommodating the city government is, but nonetheless remains up in the air, Laan said. "We're starting a process; both sides have to compromise – or not," she added.

Should they end up signing the collective agreement with the City of Tartu, then education employees in Estonia's second-largest city would be prohibited from taking part in the education workers' general strike scheduled for January 22. They would be permitted to take part in the three-day sympathy strike, however the city as employer's expectation is that education workers would only participate in just one day of the sympathy strike.

"The law allows for a sympathy strike of up to three days, and we see no reason why we should specify it as a one-day [strike] in the collective agreement," the county union chief explained. "If the law so stipulates, then we can't shorten or reduce that."

Tartu has 30 municipal kindergartens and 31 general education schools, 22 of which are municipal schools. Currently, nearly 2,300 teachers work at the city's general education schools.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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