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Head of strike action for Jüri High School: We will not catch up students

Jüri High School.
Jüri High School. Source: Marko Tooming/ERR

Results from an initial poll suggest around 80 percent of the Jüri High School's 130 teachers plan to take part in the January 22 nationwide teachers' strike. Even though strike organization and salary matters during the strike are up to school operators, teachers do not feel obligated to help students catch up after the gap in studies that the strike will cause.

"We are currently expected to go back and do the work we missed while striking. But they don't want to pay us for that work. This raises the question of whether we are obligated to catch students up if we will not be paid for it. It looks like there will be a gap," said Kersti Kaldmäe, head of strike action for the school.

Even though the general strike organized by the Estonian Education Personnel Union (EHL) has no official end date, many teachers have suggested they are willing to go on strike for a week.

Head of the union Reemo Voltri said that even that would make the January 22 action the largest strike in Estonian history.

"The biggest strike so far lasted for three days, so it will make its mark one way or another," the union representative said. But a lot of organizations have said that they are also willing to be on strike longer," Voltri said, admitting that preschool and vocational education teachers having to settle for a solidarity strike of just three days is having an effect.

An analysis the EHL commissioned from a law firm found that preschool and vocational teachers only have the right to join general education teachers for three days as a show of solidarity.

The tiny Pae Kindergarten in Tallinn only has six employees and has therefore decided not to join the strike as it would be hard-pressed to make sure the children are well looked after otherwise.

"While I was still in the dark this morning, it has now become clear that our teachers have decided not to join the strike to spare parents from having to go on unpaid leave and to make sure the kids could still come in and play. We would be hurting families," principal Kristi Viik said.

But the teachers support the strike action and hope it will produce results, especially as concerns teachers' workload.

Kersti Kaldmäe admitted that the children are innocent bystanders as far as the strike is concerned. "But I believe that we can speak through them and send the message that we do not want to hear any more empty promises. That it is not nice to consciously lie to voters," she said.

The nationwide general education teachers strike will kick off on January 22, while kindergarten and vocational school teachers can join in for three days starting from January 24.

Teachers requested an 11 percent pay rise in 2024. The Ministry of Education suggested a compromise of 8 percent but the coalition said funding can only stretch to 1.77 percent. This offer was later revised to 3.1 percent. The coalition agreement of the Reform Party, Eesti 200 and SDE prescribes hiking the salary of teachers to 120 percent of the national average, which promise teachers feel the coalition is walking back.

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Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Marcus Turovski

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