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Teachers' pay issue sparks further tensions in coalition

Mart Võrklaev and Margus Tsahkna.
Mart Võrklaev and Margus Tsahkna. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The opposition demands that the Social Democratic Party and Eesti 200 put pressure on Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) by threatening to dissolve the government if the coalition does not find a way to raise teachers' salaries.

The coalition's discussions on teachers' salaries are becoming quite emotional, the coalition board told "AK." The Social Democrats and the Eesti 200 are of the opinion that €10.8 million should be found for an additional pay rise for teachers and that negotiations should also be started for a €150 million pay rise by 2027. However, the prime minister and her party are of the opinion that no such sum can be found.

"These negotiations are very tense, and there are some sharp words that are being said," Margus Tsahkna, the minister of foreign affairs and chair of Eesti 200, said.

"Of course, this week there is even more tension because there is a strike, children can't go to school and teachers aren't working. Every day that goes by is bad for society from our point of view, and we are trying to convince the prime minister that this decision has to be taken," said Jevgeni Ossinovski, the chair of the SDE parliamentary group.

"We hope to achieve industrial peace, to find the €10 million and to sit around the table and agree on the necessary reforms," Tsahkna said.

Kaja Kallas today briefly said "we'll see" on reaching an agreement with coalition partners.

According to her, it has been agreed that teachers' salaries should rise to 120 percent of the Estonian average by 2027, and reforms are needed to find the money. But for this year, the state budget has been agreed and approved.

"As long as we don't have a new agreement, the one we have remains the deal. But, yes, we have a point of contention as to whether this band-aid will help," Kaja Kallas said.

Urmas Reinsalu, the chair of the opposition party Isamaa, said that the coalition partners, SDE and Eesti 200, should present the prime minister with a fundamental choice: "Smaller partners say that if their solution is not accepted, this government will have to dissolve," he said.

Andrei Korobeinik, from the Center Party, said that if the Reform Party, together with other partners, decides to find extra money for teachers for this year, it will mean the prime minister will have to abandon the current party position.

"I think it's psychologically difficult for her to do that. The other possibility is that the coalition will fall apart, and that's not in the interests of the Reform Party," Korobeinik said.

The government is expected to discuss the teachers' strike again on Thursday.

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Editor: Mari Peegel, Kristina Kersa

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