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Union chief: Kindergartens, vocational schools to sympathy strike

As general education schools prepare to go on strike January 22, Estonia's kindergartens and vocational schools will stage a sympathy strike in support on January 24, the Estonian Education Personnel Union (EHL) announced Monday.

Based on a legal assessment commissioned by EHL and drawn up by law firm TGS Baltic and in accordance with a January 5 decision by the EHL board, Estonia's kindergartens and vocational schools will hold a sympathy strike on January 24, the union said, adding that hobby schools and other professional trade unions can organize sympathy strikes as well.

The general education schools' strike is slated to begin on Monday, January 22, with protests scheduled to be held in Tallinn that same day and on January 24 in Tartu.

"In addition to union members, all general education teachers can join the strike and all other [general education] school employees as well as kindergarten and vocational school employees across Estonia join the sympathy strike legally protected," EHL chair Reemo Voltri said. "This is the moment we stand shoulder to shoulder, from Hiiumaa to Põlvamaa. We're not striking against anyone, but rather on behalf of everyone who cares about the sustainability of education in Estonia."

Voltri acknowledged that the teachers' strike will cause an inconvenience to several hundreds of thousands of people, and will force them to change their schedules. How work will be organized at educational institutions during the strike is up to each individual institution's respective director, however as striking employees do not have to be present at the workplace or perform their assigned duties, quality education cannot be ensured during this time either.

EHL is demanding that the minimum monthly wage for general education teachers be set at €1,950. It noted that while failed salary negotiations had focused on increasing teachers' minimum wage, it's nonetheless still crucial that the link between it and kindergarten teachers' wages is maintained as well.

The union is likewise determined to launch collective agreement talks this year that would include kindergarten and vocational education institutions as well.

How long the teachers' strike in Estonia will last is yet unclear, as the planned strike is for an unspecified period.

The Ministry of Education and Research and the public conciliator have both previously stated that kindergarten teachers' participation in the strike would be unlawful.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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