According to former Minister of Education Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE), to avoid a teachers' strike, the €10 million needed for the pay rise outlined in the Estonian Educational Personnel Union's (EHL) compromise proposal could easily be found by various ministries.
"Sure, in no time at all. It's such a small amount that it could be found in no time, as long as the will is there," Ossinovski told ETV show "Terevisioon," when commenting on the disagreement among the government regarding the teachers' pay rise.
Ossinovski said he had also suggested to the coalition council on Monday that while it would not be realistic to conclude a long-term wage deal within two or three days, the teachers' strike could still be avoided in order to prevent education being interrupted. Therefore, the government could find additional money for the current year as a show of goodwill. "In the bigger picture, it is such a small amount of money that it is not even necessary to burden ministers very much," Ossinovski said.
Ossinovski also suggested that he believes there are several places from which the required funds could be taken at a moment's notice, however he did not provided specifics. "Avoiding a strike is relatively easy to achieve and I hope we will still reach this agreement."
The Estonian Educational Personnel Union (EHL) initially wanted the minimum wage for teachers to be increased to €1,950, which would require an extra €46 million from the state budget. A compromise proposal put forward by the EHL was €1,835, at an additional cost of €10 million. The compromise proposal also includes a request to begin negotiations straight away on a collective agreement over teachers' pay for the next three years.
A long-term plan to raise teachers' pay, put forward by Estonian Minister of Education Minister Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200), would require an additional €50 million annually from the state budget. Ossinovski admitted that, undoubtedly that is a considerable sum.
"However, this is also a question of priorities. For R&D (research and development) funding we have reached an agreement of one percent, on defense we have raised the target to three percent. If we want the best education in the world, then society has to take into account that more money needs to be put into it," said the former education minister.
However, Maris Lauri (Reform), another former education minister who was also in the "Terevisioon" studio to comment on the issue alongside Ossinovski said he doubts the strike planned for next week could still be called off.
"Considering the sums that Jevgeni has listed here, these amounts cannot be found in such a short period of time. Effort will have to be made from all sides."
According to Lauri, simply providing more money will not help, other parties must also fulfil their obligations, she said, referring to the municipalities. "The biggest problem is in Tallinn, where the teaching load is the highest but the contribution from the city is relatively modest," Lauri said.
On Monday, Minister of Education Kristina Kallas went to the government to obtain approval for, among other things, a long-term agreement with teachers regarding pay rises between 2025 and 2027.
However, Lauri said she has not yet heard the Education Minister's proposals for solving issues related to education more generally, which is why Kristina Kallas has been invited to present them to the Reform Party's group.
After Monday's coalition council meeting however, Kristina Kallas said that no consensus could be reached, either regarding the dispute over this year's salary increase, nor the long-term salary agreement due to opposition from the Reform Party.
Editor: Michael Cole