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Strike likely to continue after government fails to agree on teachers' salaries

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Teachers held a rally in Tartu to support the nationwide teachers strike.
Teachers held a rally in Tartu to support the nationwide teachers strike. Source: Airika Harrik/ERR

On Thursday, the government continued to discuss teachers' salaries, but – once again – did not reach a consensus. The teachers' strike will probably continue next week.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) reiterated it is more important to discuss educational reforms that will improve teachers' salary and workload concerns in the long term. These reforms are neither easy nor popular, she said.

Kallas said the €10.8 million needed to cover the teachers' salary increase in 2024 will not fix the problem.

"We also discussed this in the cabinet and there is no agreement that anyone would be willing to give up something in their own area of administration in order to raise the salaries of teachers in a situation where the salaries of police officers, emergency service workers, cultural workers, social workers, tax officials will not increase this year," the prime minister said after the cabinet meeting.

However, she said there was a substantial discussion in the government about the proposals for the education reform.

"The minister of education [Kristina Kallas] brought proposals for reforms on how to improve teachers' working conditions, how to deal with the reduction of teachers' workload, how to organize the school network, how to reform vocational education, primary education – a whole big package. And indeed we had a very good and substantive discussion and we will take it forward," said Kallas.

Kristina Kallas and Kaja Kallas. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

"We also had a video meeting with the Estonian Education Personnel Union (EHL) and we said that our proposal is to discuss the substantive things that would solve these problems. The issue of wages will certainly be discussed when we put together the national budget strategy and the national budget for next year," she added.

Minister of Education Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) has previously said that teachers do not have time to wait for years for the reforms to take effect, and money must be allocated now.

Kristina Kallas sent an invitation to the representative organization of teachers, private schools and local governments to start negotiations for the conclusion of an education agreement for the years 2025 to 2027.

She said they want to jointly agree on a career and salary model that contributes to the appreciation of the profession, ensures the succession of teachers, and a salary corresponding to the work contribution.

The open-ended strike, organized by the EHL, started on Monday. The union is arguing for a higher minimum wage for general education teachers.

Kersna: Government must offer a compromise to teachers

Liina Kersna Source: ERR

Former Minister of Education Liina Kersna (Reform) said the government should stop complaining and offer the teachers a compromise.

"In general, I would expect less whining and more action on common goals, less finger-pointing and more solutions and cooperation from government," she said. "I am not there at the table, I cannot say what the problem is, but the fact is that the government should offer a compromise to the union. The EHL has repeatedly offered to compromise, but the government simply says that our compromise is that we will make reforms. This does not seem to satisfy the education workers."

Kersna acknowledged the coalition has already found over €30 million to increase the teachers' salaries. However, she added that if educators are still not happy, the Ministry of Education should review its budget.

"I would look at every budget line in the Ministry of Education and I would think about every line, whether that line is more important than increasing teachers' salaries or more important than ending the strike.," Kersna said.

Asked what she would do if she were minister, Kersna said she would have compromised.

"The compromise I would propose is that we keep the ratio of teachers' average pay to the national average in 2024 at the same level as last year, because our goal is to reach 120 percent. In light of current decisions, we are moving further away from our target, not closer. And to do that, we would need €5.6 million. This money, I think, can be found in the ministry of education and general education," said Kersna.

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Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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