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Union ends teachers' strike

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

The Estonian Education Personnel Union (EHL) on Tuesday accepted the government's proposal to the national conciliator, which allocates an additional €5.7 million for teachers' salary increases this year, ending the current strike.

At a press conference, alongside Minister of Education and Research Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200), EHL head Reemo Voltri said an agreement to end the labor dispute has been agreed with the national conciliator Meelis Virkebau.

"From this moment, the strike is over and from tomorrow schools will continue their work," he said. 

The minimum salary for general education teachers can now rise to €1,820 – by €17 a month.

However, it was also agreed that collective negotiations will take place this year to ensure teachers' average salaries reach 120 percent of the average salary by 2027.

Negotiations will begin with local governments on February 19 to agree on the salary and career model for teachers.

Voltri admitted the agreement is not ideal, but said teachers are prioritizing children and education.

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

"We considered this offer carefully in the EHL council. Since one party [the Reform Party - ed.] did not want to resolve the situation, we accepted the offer of the two parties as a solution so that we could move to longer-term negotiations," the union leader said.

However, Voltri stressed the trade union will ensure that future negotiations are substantive and covered by financial resources. If not, further action is not ruled out.

The union leader thanked the teachers for their participation in the strike and said it had fulfilled its purpose of raising educators' concerns to the public.

Kallas said she was pleased to reach an agreement that ensures schools can return to normal on Wednesday (January 31).

"Given the current state of the economy, which has been in recession for several quarters, this is a very big strain on the public budget. Teachers, however, have been reassured that their salaries will not fall this year relative to the national average," said Kallas.

The minister said formalizing the new salary will take some time, as it requires a change in the state budget, which must be done by the Riigikogu. Therefore, teachers may not be paid their new wage this month.

Kristina Kallas at the support strike in Tartu. Source: Airika Harrik/ERR

On Tuesday, after striking for seven working days, the coalition agreed to allocate €5.7 million in additional funding for teachers' salaries.

Kallas said on Vikerraadio's "Uudis +" the money will come from cuts to the budgets of ministries led by the junior coalition partners SDE and Eesti 200, such as education and science, economic affairs and communications, social affairs, and regional affairs. As the Minister of Health Riina Sikkut (SDE) and the Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo (Reform) are ministers in the Ministry of Social Affairs, Kallas said, the Reform Party will also contribute. Reform is the largest coalition partner.

The union initially wanted the minimum salary to be set at €1,950, or the national average for 2024. After a compromise, the EHL dropped this target to €1,836, meaning the government needed to find an extra €10.8 million for salaries this year.

In 2023, the minimum monthly wage for a full-time teacher in Estonia was €1,749, with a net salary of €1,400 a month.

Teachers initially requested an 11 percent pay rise in 2024. The Ministry of Education suggested a compromise of 8 percent but the coalition said funding can only stretch to 1.77 percent – €31 per month. This offer was later revised to 3.1 percent taking the minimum salary to €1,803.

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Editor: Urmet Kook, Mait Ots, Helen Wright

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