The head of the coalition Social Democratic Party (SDE), Estonia's Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets urged local government heads to make sure teachers continue to be paid during the nationwide strike scheduled for the second half of January. The position of the Ministry of Education and Research is that teachers should not be paid when striking.
Läänemets wrote in a letter to fellow SDE members that the Social Democrats are ardent supporters of the right to strike and stand with teachers.
"The right to strike is a mark of a democratic state and a strong society, also as mentioned in the Estonian Constitution. I hope that parents and others the strike will directly concern understand that too," Läänemets wrote, adding that it is in the government's power to prevent the strike.
The SDE chair asked all local government heads, council members and friends belonging to the party to make sure teachers continue to get paid during the strike.
But the Education Ministry is adamant in that being on strike does not entitle one to pay as per the law.
Läänemets said that the effect of the strike will go beyond teachers and students to affect the lives of other groups and the Estonian economy.
Teachers in Estonia, represented by the Estonian Education Personnel Union (EHL), have vowed to go on strike for an unspecified period of time from January 22. Kindergarten and vocational school teachers are set to join in for a three-day solidarity strike from January 24. Every strike participant must give at least five days notice.
Coalition council discussing long-term salary agreement
Estonia's coalition council, made up of the heads of the ruling parties, will convene Monday afternoon. Minister of Education Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) will ask the government for a mandate for a long-term (2025-2027) salary agreement for teachers.
Läänemets remarked that the Social Democrats support the proposal and expressed hope that the government also supporting it might help appease teachers. But it is clear that the salary of teachers will not go up [by as much as is demanded] this year.
He added that the way Estonia is governed is too rigid when it comes to salary disputes and that matters of national importance should be discussed more often.
"We have told our coalition partners that we do not understand this approach where the government can only discuss major problems in society once a year – during two days of fiscal strategy talks in Vihula. It might be a fitting solution for good old boring times, but not when we are seeing back to back crises," the SDE leader said.
Editor: Marko Tooming, Marcus Turovski