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Estonian education minister makes new offer to try to end teachers' strike

Kristina Kallas.
Kristina Kallas. Source: Airika Harrik/ERR

Estonian Minister of Education and Research Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) is offering teachers a pay rise for this year, though it will be smaller than the one educators are seeking to end the strike. To do so requires require an extra €5.7 million, which Eesti 200 and SDE ministers have agreed to cover using funds from their respective government ministries.

Speaking on ETV show "Terevisioon," the education minister said that she had put forward a proposal to that end to Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) on Friday, and that work was done to find the finances to back the move over the weekend and on Monday.

"The Eesti 200 and the SDE ministers have found the financial backing for this compromise proposal. It is not €10.8 million. What we would propose to teachers on this occasion is that we will be able to keep the average salary for teachers at the same ratio to the average salary in Estonia as it was last year. In other words, teachers will not lose their purchasing power. To do this, we need €5.7 million," said Kristina Kallas.

Currently, the minimum wage for teachers is €1,803 per month. The education minister's fresh offer would mean a rise to €1,820 a month. "It is not a significant increase, but it is important that the average teacher's salary does not fall in relation to the average salary in Estonia. The increase would be 6.6 percent. So the increase in teachers' salaries would be at the same pace as the increase in the overall average salary," said Kristina Kallas.

The education minister also presented the offer to teachers' representatives on Monday evening, as ministers have agreed that the finances are available to implement it.

The Estonian Educational Personnel Union (EHL) has promised to hold a council meeting on Tuesday morning, with Kallas hopeful the strike could be called off today.

To find the money, Kallas said, all Eesti 200 and SDE ministers have agreed to make cuts to their respective ministries' operating grants.

Eesti 200 and the Social Democratic Part (SDE) hold six ministries in total, with no cuts currently expected to come from Reform Party ministers, Kristina Kallas said on "Terevisioon."

"We are currently cutting the operating grants for six ministries in order to find the €5.7 million. The cuts relate to the ministry's own work, whether that is the salaries of ministry employees, the ministries' management costs or operating costs, but not sectoral funds," Kallas explained, adding that there would probably be no opposition from the Reform Party if the finances to cover the proposal are found.

The government previously set the minimum monthly salary for teachers in 2024 at €1,803, with the differentiable part increasing from 17 percent to 20 percent. This meant  the average monthly salary for teachers in 2024would be €2,164. However, teachers did not accept this, and called an indefinite strike, which began on January 22.

The deal now put forward by the education minister would raise  the minimum wage by 4.1 percent, to €1,820 a month, bringing the teachers' average to 6.6 percent, or €2,184. Teachers' salaries will therefore remain at 112 percent of the Estonian national average, the ministry said in a press statement.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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