Minister of Education Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) offered to seek a mandate from the government to conclude a long-term agreement for teachers on salary and working conditions at Thursday's pre-strike consultation with the Estonian Educational Personnel Union (EHL) leader Reemo Voltri.
"I proposed the same long-term agreement for 2025-2027, for which I need a mandate from the government. Teachers want a long-term agreement on pay raises, but also for working conditions. This is what I also proposed, that we could work on this," Kallas told ERR.
The deal would be in the form of a collective agreement, corresponding to section 176 of the Basic School and High School Act.
The minister did not offer teachers a pay rise for 2024 at Thursday's meeting.
"This year we have already increased teachers' salaries by 5.7 percent, and at the moment we do not see that we can raise teachers's salaries any more than that in this year's budget. But the question from teachers is also that if the salary doesn't go up this year, will it go up in the coming years and, if so, by how much? That is the agreement we should be trying to reach," the minister said.
Getting a mandate from the government requires negotiations of the state budget strategy (RES). "Regarding RES, we have to start negotiating with partners," added Kallas.
The union plans to start its open-ended strike on January 22.
In addition to salary increases from the start of the year, EHL also believes it is important to start negotiations to conclude the collective agreement so this situation cannot arise again. In future discussions with the ministry, it also wants to highlight equalizing kindergarten with general education teachers' salaries.
EHL's head of information Janno Isat told ERR that, just like last year, the union is ready to negotiate with the government to find a solution that would stop the strike.
"But everyone working in schools and kindergartens needs very concrete actions about how this will be achieved. We've already been given enough of these beautiful promises," he said, adding educators want to understand how the government's words will turn into reality.
"Collective agreements on teachers' salaries (general, vocational, and elementary) would be a strong signal from the Estonian state and certainly an important link in improving the situation of an aging and shrinking teaching force," Isat said.
"Education is where the foundations of a successful society are laid, but it cannot be done without teachers and other educators," he added.
Editor: Mari Peegel, Helen Wright