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Government fails to reach agreement on extra funding for teachers' salaries

Kaja Kallas, Lauri Läänemets, and Margus Tsahkna at the government's press conference on January 18, 2024.
Kaja Kallas, Lauri Läänemets, and Margus Tsahkna at the government's press conference on January 18, 2024. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The coalition did not agree to allocate additional money for teachers' salaries at a meeting on Thursday. Eesti 200 and SDE previously said €10 million could be found to stop a looming strike.

Reform, SDE, and Eesti 200 did not reach an agreement to guarantee the €1,835 minimum wage demanded by the Estonian Education Personnel Union (EHL) for teachers this year.

An additional €10 million was needed to reach this level.

Additionally, the union wanted to start collective bargaining negotiations on wage increases for the next three years.

"Unfortunately, no agreement was reached. The Reform Party insisted that the 10.8 million needed to raise salaries and call off the strike would have to be found by the Education Minister from within his own department," Minister of Education and Research Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) told ERR.

Minister of Education Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

She said this is an issue that concerns the whole government, not only the ministry.

"If I had to find this money in the budget of the Ministry of Education and Research, it could only come at the expense of higher education and research. But I do not agree with that," the minister said.

Kallas said this means that the strike cannot be prevented. 

Chairman of SDE Lauri Läänemets told ERR that, unfortunately, no agreement was made. However, a consensus was reached on how salary negotiations with teachers should take place for the next three years.

He said his party proposed the government parties meet at the weekend and discuss their positions again.

Lauri Läänemets. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

"I was left with the understanding that the Reform Party will not go along with this plan, but if they still say they are willing to do it now, we will get together at the weekend. Otherwise, there will be further negotiations in the coalition council on Monday," he said.

Läänemets said money can be found from other sources, not only the Ministry of Education and Research's budget. He agreed with Kristina Kallas that cutting the higher education budget is not acceptable.

Prime Minister and leader of the Reform Party Kaja Kallas told the press conference money can only be found in the ministry's budget, and should not be allocated from other areas.

Läänemets said the prime minister voiced the same opinion at the meeting. "I have a feeling that this issue is no longer about teachers' salaries, but it is some kind of principle," he said.

However, the interior minister also said the dispute would not endanger the continuation of the coalition.

The government's press conference on January 18, 2024. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

EHL has announced an open-ended strike for teachers of general education schools from January 22.

A three-day support strike will also take place for employees at childhood education, vocational education, and hobby education institutions from January 24.


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Editor: Marko Tooming, Helen Wright

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