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Government reaches agreement on €5.7 million for teachers' pay rise

Eesti 200.
Eesti 200. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The government agreed on Tuesday to spend €5.7 million for a further pay increase for teachers, raising their minimum income to €1,820, Education Minister Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) said.

"We agreed today that we were willing to allocate this €5.7 million, and we offered this compromise plan to teachers. Kallas told ERR that they had reached an agreement on where the money will come from.

"Today, in the government, we decided where the money would come from in the budget lines. This is the agreement of the whole government. It cannot be the case that only ministers from certain parties will implement these cuts," Kallas said.

Kristina Kallas told Vikerraadio's "Uudis +" program that €5.7 million will come from cuts in the activities of the ministries of education (Eesti 200), the finance (Reform), the interior (SDE), rural affairs (SDE), and social affairs (Reform).

Kallas said that if the teachers' union accepts the offer, the strike would likely end on Tuesday.

Although Kristina Kallas has said in the past that the carry-over funds cannot be used to raise teachers' salaries, she now said that this is partly where the promised €5.7 million will come from.

"We have a billion in rollover funds in the national budget. All the ministries carry over funds from one year to the next that are not used or that are reallocated to another purpose for the following year. This €93 million was on the line of the Ministry of Education, it was the money that was allocated from the supplementary budget for the children of war refugees from Ukraine, which we can't actually transfer any more. It goes back into the national budget," Kallas explained.

"But all the ministries have a lot of carry-over funds, it's a normal procedure in the national budget. It is certainly possible to find funds in these funds that were probably not earmarked in the national budget. I think this is one of the most important processes of the review of the national budget, where we should look at line by line of all the ministries, why we carry over so much money all the time, every year. I think there are certainly savings to be made there," Kallas said.

"And the transferable funds from the Ministry of Education, I don't think it's important for the listener to talk about where the €90 million is going, but we've already transferred the money from that to teachers' salaries within the eight million, and now with today's agreement we're going to transfer even more," she said.

However, Kristina Kallas said on January 23 that no unspent funds from the Ministry of Education and Research could be used to increase teacher salary this year because the funds are intended for basic research funding and grants. According to her, using carry-over funds would also be against the law, as the state budget law states that carry-over funds can only be utilized for the reason for which they were initially allocated.

"Cutting basic research funding and grant money to enhance teacher wages is simply not acceptable. It doesn't make sense," Kristina Kallas said on January 23.

On Tuesday, the education minister clarified that no money would be taken away from research.

"There are long-term funds that must be planned for several years in advance and included in the budget each year, as well as one-time funds that can only be used in a specific budget year. And now we agreed that from these one-time money, which otherwise cannot be used to pay teachers' salaries, this year we will solve the problem of teachers' salaries, and for 2025, 2026, and 2027, we will make agreements when we develop the national budget strategy," she explained.

"Of these carry-over funds, totaling €28 million, most of it is long term money that is now being channeled into research. But within that €28 million were one-time funds this year that we are also using to cover the shortfall in the construction of the National Library, and there was a separate three million for the development of artificial intelligence. And with that money, we will use it this year exclusively for additional teacher salary increases," she said.

Kristina Kallas announced on Tuesday morning that ministers from the Social Democrats and Eesti 200 want to take a total of €5.7 million in cuts from the ministries they run to raise teachers' minimum salaries by €17 a month.

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Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Kristina Kersa

Source: Interviewers Indrek Kiisler and Mirko Ojakivi

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