Minister of Education Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) said a week before teachers are set to go on strike in Estonia that she hopes pedagogues will settle for a minimum salary of €1,803 this year if a solid agreement can be reached in 2025 for hiking pay to 120 percent of the national average by 2027.
Kallas said that as much money as possible has been sent toward teachers' salaries from this year's education budget, meaning she does not deem further pay rises realistic inside 2024. "I presume teachers will settle for the minimum wage rising to €1,803 this year if there is a proper salary advance agreement on the horizon," the minister told ERR's "Terevisioon" morning show.
She added that hiking the sectoral minimum wage to €1,950 would cost an additional €46 million which cannot be found at this time. The compromise proposal of €1,835 would require €10 million which would need to be borrowed.
Kallas said that she will seek the government's approval for a roadmap for salary hikes in the sector in 2025-2027. The coalition council convenes on Mondays.
The education minister said that according to the proposal, the average pay of teachers would go up by 10 percent in 2025 and 6 percent every year after that, talking about funds the central government makes available to its local counterparts for education salaries.
Kallas added that the agreement would also deal with teachers' workload and reorganization of the schools network in Estonia. The former has been a concern for teachers for a long time as many tasks they need to perform, such as grading papers and preparing classes, is not currently compensated.
The minister said that while teachers have not said how long they plan to strike, it will undoubtedly negatively impact education. "We need to make every effort to try and avoid the strike in the first place," Kallas said, adding that if an agreement cannot be reached before the strike begins, it must surely be done during the strike action.
'Justice chancellor is correct, legally speaking'
Kallas also commented on criticism from the National Audit Office according to which boosting local governments' education subsidies using a ministerial regulation is not in accordance with the law.
"The auditor general is not wrong when he says that an explanatory memorandum cannot put it that way. Because it must be in line with the figures in the state budget. /.../ Legally speaking, the auditor general is correct," Kallas said, clarifying that the government has erred in how additional sums reaching local governments has been described in the memo. "The state budget needs to be amended in spring anyway, which is when we will also correct the teachers' wages sums."
The minister said that the matter concerns €8 million she found [for teachers' salaries] by cutting other areas of the ministry's budget, while there was no time to introduce the changes to the budget itself.
Editor: Urmet Kook, Marcus Turovski