Teachers accept governments offer to end strike

The Estonian educators' union EHL on Tuesday accepted the government's offer to raise the minimum wage for teachers. Prime minister Kaja Kallas and EHL leader Reemo Voltri.
The Estonian educators' union EHL on Tuesday accepted the government's offer to raise the minimum wage for teachers. Prime minister Kaja Kallas and EHL leader Reemo Voltri. Photo: Mihkel Maripuu

The Estonian educators' union EHL on Tuesday accepted the government's offer to raise the minimum wage for teachers, which means that the teacher strike will end.

EHL leader Reemo Voltri told reporters at a press conference in the afternoon that he and the minister of education were coming from the public conciliator's office, where an agreement to end the labor dispute was inked.

According to the agreement, the minimum wage for teachers will be retroactively increased to 1,820 euros a month starting from Jan. 1. Additionally, it was stipulated that negotiations for a collective agreement must begin and the agreement must be signed no later than on Dec. 31.

As part of the collective agreement still to be negotiated, the average wage for teachers will increase to at least 120 percent of the national average wage by 2027. Furthermore, the agreement will address improvements in teachers' working conditions, including a career model and a salary model.

With this, the strike comes to an end, and a labor peace obligation will be in effect until the end of the year. If either party fails to fulfill their commitments, the other party has the right to terminate the labor peace.

The union is also calling on school managers to facilitate the bridging of the learning gaps caused by the strike, including by paying an extra for the work to be done by teachers to this end.

The union leader said that Tuesday's agreement did not fully satisfy teachers, but the aim was to go into collective bargaining not in a strike mode.

«The strike has served its purpose in bringing the concerns of teachers to the public,» Voltri said, adding that if the reputation of the teaching profession is not improved, there will soon not be enough teachers.

Voltri expressed his deep respect for all the educators who showed concern and civic courage and were out on strike and pickets.

«Your contribution is very great and we hope that we can reach longer agreements this year,» the union leader said.

Minister of Education and Research Kristina Kallas added that teachers will not get a pay rise right away, as it will take some time due to legal issues. In particular, the state budget needs to be amended, which has to be done by the Riigikogu.

«But the important thing is that labor peace is restored and schooling will resume from Wednesday,» the minister said.

The government reached an agreement on Tuesday to allocate 5.7 million for an additional pay rise for teachers, which would raise the minimum wage rate for teachers to 1,820 euros a month, public broadcaster ERR reported.

«We reached an agreement today that we are ready to allocate this 5.7 million and we made this compromise proposal to teachers. Now we agreed on where these funds will come from,» Kallas told ERR earlier on Tuesday.

The additional amount was found in their ministries' budgets by ministers from the Estonia 200 party and the Social Democratic Party.

With this added funding, the average salary of teachers would grow 6.6 percent, and their minimum salary would rise to 1,820 euros, maintaining a ratio to the average salary at 112 percent. The minister has also made a proposal to end the labor dispute to the Estonian Education Personnel Union.

«If we reach an agreement, this year we would invest nearly 40 million euros into teachers' salaries. However, besides the salary issue, teachers also want to jointly agree on a career model and a system for calculating their workload, to ensure a fixed workload and clear career opportunities. That's why last week I sent negotiation invitations to school managers to jointly sign a long-term education agreement for the years 2025-2027. Negotiations will start on February 19,» Kallas said.

The minimum salary for teachers has currently been established at 1,803 euros per month and the differentiated portion of the salary grew from 17 percent to 20 percent, resulting in an average monthly salary of 2,164 euros for teachers in 2024. Teachers did not consent to this and have been on an open-ended strike since Jan. 22.

The agreement proposed by the education minister now would raise the minimum salary for teachers 4.1 percent, or to 1,820 euros, which would raise the average salary 6.6 percent to 2,184 euros. Thus, the ratio of teachers' salaries to the Estonian average would remain at 112 percent.