Academic trade unions to protest in support of increased research funding

Researchers have convened on Toompea Hill in Tallinn to protest the government's planned freeze on research spending. May 30, 2019.
Researchers have convened on Toompea Hill in Tallinn to protest the government's planned freeze on research spending. May 30, 2019. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Academic trade unions in Estonia are to hold demonstrations in Tallinn and Tartu at noon Thursday in support of increased funding of higher education and research.

The demonstration in Tallinn will take place at Estonia puiestee 11 and 13, by the Bank of Estonia, where the government is to hold the press conference of its Thursday field meeting. The demonstration in Tartu is to take place by the Ministry of Education and Research at Munga 18, organizers said Wednesday.

Higher education workers are to present three requests to the government at Thursday's demonstration. The first is increasing research funding to 1 percent of GDP; the second is the funding of higher education at 1.5 percent of GDP; the third, ensuring researchers a basic income in the amount of half the average salary, the cost of which equals just 0.07 percent of GDP.

Ruth Tammeorg, board chairwoman of the trade union of the University of Tartu, said that the research agreement has not been adhered to, and that the funding of higher education has now been dealt a blow as well.

"Higher education workers do not want the reintroduction of paid higher education, a reduction in the amount of face-to-face teaching, or the sending of lecturers on forced unpaid leave, as is currently being deliberated at the universities," Tammeorg said, adding that the survival of Estonian research and the quality of higher education are currently in serious danger.

According to the trade unions, the government has breached the public research agreement entered to late last year. The trade unions, the Estonian Chamber of Research and the Estonian Young Academy of Sciences have joined forces to fight for the fulfillment of the research agreement and the improvement of the working conditions of academic employees.

Medical association also concerned

A wider joint meeting held on Monday was attended by students and teachers as well for the first time. Negotiations are also underway with the Estonian Medical Association, which is also seriously concerned about the decline in the quality of research and higher education, which in turn has a direct impact on the quality of the country's healthcare.

Thursday's demonstrations are being organized by the trade unions of the University of Tartu (TÜ), the Estonian University of Life Sciences (EMÜ), Tallinn University (TLÜ), the Estonian Chamber of Research, and the Estonian Young Academy of Sciences.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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