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Union head: Teachers might be compensated for lost salary when catching up students

Reemo Voltri.
Reemo Voltri. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Wednesday marks the high point of Estonia's nationwide teachers' strike as kindergarten teachers numbering 5,577 join basic school teachers in a sympathy strike. The teachers' union believes that striking teachers might be compensated for lost pay when helping student catch up later.

Reemo Voltri, head of the Estonian Education Personnel Union (EHL) could not say how many local governments have decided to join Tallinn in paying teachers of schools and kindergartens for the first three days of the strike, which kicked off Monday.

The union chief added that many teachers have nevertheless vowed to strike for longer than three days.

A three-day sympathy strike of kindergarten and vocational school teachers will complement the nationwide general education strike Wednesday through Friday. "It's quite probable that the number of those on strike is highest today, while we don't expect it to fall too much over the coming days either," Voltri remarked.

EHL's information suggests 284 preschool institutions and their 5,577 employees will join the strike Wednesday, complemented by 23 hobby schools with 276 employees and 15 vocational schools and 292 staff. It is possible others will decide to join as the day progresses.

The union is using its strike fund to partially compensate kindergarten teachers participating in the strike. EHL said it will be compensating 1,600 employees for 50 percent of their salary. The union might also decide to widen the circle of those compensated.

Even though the previous teachers' strike took place 11 years ago, the union's strike fund remains modest as it mainly draws from membership fees.

Voltri: Local governments must pay teachers for helping children catch up

The union head has previously said that teachers could negotiate with local governments to have the wages they miss striking returned to them in the form of additional remuneration for helping students catch up after the strike. Voltri suggested that if an agreement is not reached, the students will simply have to cope without the additional instruction.

"It would be the responsibility of these local governments to explain to parents how they plan to fill these gaps in knowledge or compensate them for it," he said.

The union representative added that some schools already have such agreements in place.

Tallinn deputy mayor: Catching up students requires an agreement with parents

Tallinn's Education Department said that 108 of the city's kindergartens with 1,863 employees were participating in the strike at noon Wednesday. Wages will be retained for vocational and hobby school as well as kindergarten teachers for the first three days of the strike as things stand.

Tallinn Deputy Mayor Andre Kante said that efforts to help students catch up on subjects after the strike need to be agreed between schools, teachers and parents.

"As we know, a student's weekly workload has been fixed in the law, meaning that teaching cannot take place after hours. This means that whether to teach the material in a concentrated manner, which might not be a good fit for all students, or whether to handle it in some other way requires a broader agreement between teachers, heads of schools and parents," Kante told ERR.

Asked what will happen should the strike last longer, Kante dared not pledge continued salary support for teachers.

Teachers in Estonia embarked on a nationwide strike for an unspecified time on Monday, demanding a minimum sectoral wage hike of at least 5 percent this year and for the government to enter into collective agreement talks with the aim of hiking the average salary of teachers to 120 percent of the national average. The government has refused to meet teachers' demands so far. The minimum salary of a teacher is currently €1,803 a month.

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Editor: Mari Peegel, Marcus Turovski

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