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Union: Teachers aware of societal expectations over strike

Jaano Isat.
Jaano Isat. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The government could prevent a teachers' strike by taking concrete action, said Janno Isat, head of information at the Educational Personnel Union (EHL) on ETV show "Terevisioon." However, teachers are not prepared to back down based on promises alone, he added.

"A strike could of course be averted," Isat said, in response to Minister of Education and Research  Kristina Kallas' (Eesti 200) pledge on Thursday to ask the government for a mandate to reach a long-term agreement on teachers' salaries. "We want concrete action. We have heard some nice slogans and promises. We are also looking forward to what will happen on Monday."

Isat added, that raising the minimum wage for teachers this year is entirely doable with the use of a supplementary budget.

"A lot of other unions are keeping their fingers crossed and looking to us to see if the government's promises are kept. That's why we need to be really confident," Isat said. "We have to give a clear signal to the politicians: you cannot make promises without guarantees. We understand clearly the expectations that have been raised in society."

"We are prepared to compromise, as we have done in the past," said Isat. "Before January 22, the government has a real chance to avert a strike. A strike is in nobody's best interest."

Isat said that educational workers have indicated their willingness to strike for a long time.

On Thursday, Minister of Education Minister Kristina Kallas said she would ask the government on Monday for a mandate to reach a long-term pay deal for teachers. "I proposed the same long-term agreement for the years 2025 – 2027. For that, I need a mandate from the government. Teachers want to have a long-term agreed pay rise, but also certain working conditions. This is what I have proposed, that we could work towards this," Kallas told ERR.

Obtaining a mandate from the government would require negotiations regarding the state budget strategy. "We need to start negotiating with our partners on the state budget strategy," Kallas added.

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' 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.

The union plans to start its open-ended strike on January 22.

In addition to salary increases from the start of the year, the EHL also believes it is important to start negotiations to conclude the collective agreement so a similar situation cannot arise again. In future discussions with the ministry, it also wants to emphasize bringing kindergarten teachers' salaries in line with those who teach in general education.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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