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Margus Tsahkna: Education minister to request €10 million towards teacher wage hike

Margus Tsahkna appearing on Wednesday's edition of 'Otse uudistemajast'.
Margus Tsahkna appearing on Wednesday's edition of 'Otse uudistemajast'. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Minister of Education Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) is to request €10 million towards teacher wage hikes, with the aim of staving off a planned nationwide teachers' strike, Eesti 200 chair and Foreign Minister Margus Tsahnka says.

Kallas will make the request at Thursday's cabinet meeting, Tsahkna added.

Appearing on ERR webcast "Otse uudistemajast" Wednesday, Minister Tsahkna expressed hope that the plan would succeed.

"Ten million is the kind of money worth preventing a strike. /.../ I really hope that we still are in with a chance of canceling this strike," he said.

According to Tsahkna, the teachers could then sit down to discuss a long-term salary agreement, or collective agreement, which is the other side of the teachers' demands.

This would entail fixing the wage increase for teachers at 120 percent of the nationwide average wage in Estonia by 2027, as per the coalition agreement.

Meanwhile Social Democrats (SDE) Riigikogu chief whip Jevgeni Ossinovski said Monday that this €10 million should be viable to find within a very short space of time.

"It is such a small amount that it could be found in an instant, if only the will is there," he told ETV morning show "Terevisioon."

Ossinovski said he had also proposed Monday at a coalition council sitting that, since it is unrealistic to conclude a long-term salary agreement within two or three days, yet the planned teachers' strike should be avoided so as not to disrupt schools and their work, the government should find the additional funds for the current year simply as a goodwill gesture.

However, the coalition council did not reach an agreement on the salary increase for teachers as of Monday.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kamera" (AK) after the coalition council meeting that, in a situation where the state budget lacks funds on the revenue side, taking on new expenses right now is not viable.

The teachers' strike is planned to start next Monday, for an open ended time-span.

It covers all general education schools, ie. not vocational schools or kindergartens, though it is thought that a significant proportion of teachers in both of the latter cases will be out on strike for three days, as an expression of solidarity.

Teachers have signaled they are willing to relent if the collective agreement for 2025-2027 noted above is concluded, even if 2024 wages remain as they are.

Minister of Education Kristina Kallas said on Monday that the negotiations to reach an agreement with the teachers will continue right up until the last moment, i.e. until this Sunday.

Most Estonian schools are run by local governments, and these have the option to both decide whether to strike, and to continue to pay teachers who are out on strike, as things stand. However, at state run schools, of which there are 50 nationwide, strikers will not be remunerated for their time away from school. Thirty-three of these schools are set to go out on strike at the time of writing.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

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