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Union head: Teachers and education not a priority for PM and finance minister

Reemo Voltri.
Reemo Voltri. Source: Airika Harrik/ERR

Several thousand teachers will continue striking in Estonia also this week as the government is reluctant to find €10.8 million needed to hike the minimum wage of teachers to €1,836, Reemo Voltri, head of the Estonian Educational Personnel Union (EHL), told ERR.

"The education minister says she understands [teachers' concerns], and her actions also seem to suggest she does. The minister found around €8 million to give teachers a slight pay rise late last year. But the rest of the government, and the prime minister especially, says that it is impossible to find €10-11 million in the state budget. That is hard to believe. It is a matter of will and priorities. And right now it seems that Estonian education and teachers are not a priority for neither the premier nor the finance minister, which is something that the Estonian society is just expected to accept," Voltri said on the "Terevisioon" morning show.

The union representative added that several thousand teachers have said they will continue the strike this week, while it's still possible to join the action from Monday.

"We have no right to tire if we see that the government is not taking this seriously. Estonia's aging faculty, shortage of new teachers and the growing number of unqualified teachers means we will lose access to good education in the future. Yes, the main issue is with salaries. We can talk about workload, while teachers are taking on too many hours because they are looking to complement their salaries."

Voltri said that while the teachers have met the government half way, this has not been reciprocated.

"Negotiations started at €1,950, which is the national average [salary]. We have come down in our demand and are currently talking about a 5 percent minimum sectoral wage hike to €1,836. /.../ The government has not taken a single step and their only position is "no." /.../ Meeting what we are after (€1,836 minimum wage – ed.) would be a sign that any subsequent steps by the government could be taken seriously."

Voltri pointed out that teachers will be paid a daily rate from the sixth day of the strike.

"The union will compensate its members to make sure teachers and their families do not suffer too much financially."

The union head could not say how long teachers might remain on strike

"We will take it one day and week at a time. We are expecting the government to take concrete steps that would help end the strike.

Teachers in Estonia launched a general strike on January 22 after failing to negotiate a sufficient pay rise. The minimum wage of a teacher is currently €1,803. The EHL is looking for a 5 percent wage increase this year and a collective agreement that would see teachers' wages raised to 120 percent of the national average salary by 2027.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

Source: "Terevisioon"

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