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Pollsters: Two-thirds of public in favor of teachers' strike

An empty classroom (photo is illustrative).
An empty classroom (photo is illustrative). Source: Pixabay

67 percent of respondents to a recent survey say they approve of the planned teachers' strike due to start on Monday, while a further 25 percent oppose the strike.

The survey was compiled by Norstat, on behalf of NGO the Institute for Societal Studies (Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut).

Respondents to the survey were posed the question: "What are your views on teachers striking for higher pay?" while the options were "approve," "somewhat approve," "oppose," and "somewhat oppose," as well as an option for undecided respondents.

As noted 67 percent answered that they "approve" or "somewhat approve," while 25 percent chose "oppose" or "somewhat oppose."

The remaining 8 percent of respondents answered "can't say."

The survey results are also broken down by voter preference.

Reform is the only party whose supporters, in the main, oppose the strike (at 56 percent), though even there, a fairly significant number (35 percent) are in favor of it.

Striking for pay is seen as, so far as parties go, mostly against the senior coalition partner, Reform, even though the education minister position is held by Eesti 200 (Kristina Kallas, no relation to Prime Minister Kaja Kallas).

Two-thirds (67 percent in fact, the same as support the strike from respondents to the survey as a whole) of Eesti 200 voters support the strike also, while 76 percent of supporters of the Social Democrats (SDE), also in the coalition but a party whose pre-election slogan was "wages must rise," are in favor of teachers striking.

Of the three opposition parties, 85 percent of Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) supporters, 81 percent of Center voters and 73 percent of Isamaa supporters said they also back the strike, due to start on Monday.

Since SDE have voiced calls for teacher wage hikes, the survey also polled respondents on the following: First, a question was posed which asked if SDE should quit the coalition, if teacher wages are not raised to the extent desired.

Responses to this were fairly split – 41 percent said "no" or "preferably not" while 36 percent answered "yes" or "preferably yes." The remaining 24 percent were undecided.

The second question on this was phrased: "Let us imagine a hypothetical situation whereby SDE block the functioning of the government, in order to guarantee a wage rise for teachers. Would you support this move?"

To this, 44 percent answered "no" or "probably not"; 43 percent "probably yes" or "yes," with 14 percent undecided.

Overall, 51 percent of respondents said they would support at least one of the two above steps if taken by SDE, and 30 percent who would not support either step.

By party, half of the supporters of SDE and Eesti 200 would support at least one of the two steps, and half not.

The vast majority of Reform supporters said they would not support either step, and the majority of supporters of the other three (opposition) political parties answered that they would support at least one of the two measures.

Finally, respondents were asked if they thought Kaja Kallas (Reform) should step down as prime minister.

Two third (65 percent) said "yes" or "preferably yes," and 27 percent said "no" or "preferably not," with 9 percent answering "can't say."

Norstat conducted its survey online, within one day, polling Estonian citizens age 18 and over. A total of 1,000 respondents took part.

As things stand, teachers at general education schools are due to go on strike from Monday for an open-ended period of time, with the decision to be made by the schools and their staff. Most schools are run by local governments, who will continue to pay teachers while on strike, while teachers from the over 30 (of around 50) state-run schools striking will not be paid.

Additionally, teachers at kindergartens and vocational schools are to go on a three-day solidarity strike next week.

Teachers' strikes, or any strikes, of this magnitude are a relative rarity in Estonia, with the last nationwide education strike taking place back in 2012, over three days. As such, if it goes ahead and no solution is found by or on Sunday, the development would be a fairly damning indictment of how the Kallas-led government is viewed at home, even as Kallas herself continues to be feted internationally.

Teachers have indicated that they would be willing to stay at work were wage increases set in place from next year, through to 2027.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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