Prime Minister Andrus Ansip says the pay-raise demands of health care workers preparing to go on strike next week are unrealistic.
"I ask, from whom will this money be taken from? Will we cut pensions, teacher salaries, or are the wages of rescue workers and police too high? [...] It would have to come at the expense of patients, through either their wallets or welfare,” said Ansip in question hour in Parliament today.
According to the prime minister, doctors' average monthly salary last year was 1,704 euros before taxes, well above Estonia's mean of 839 euros, but health care officials have said the figure is only representative of those working overtime.
While calling for doctors' pay levels to be made public, Ansip conceded that there are injustices in the sector.
"I think doctors are in different situations; intensive care departments, surgeons and cardiac reanimation specialists are probably overburdened and underpaid,” he said. "In some other fields, pay is much higher despite the fact that labor intensiveness is lower.”
With its budget set to rise by 55 million euros next year, the Health Insurance Fund decided last week that doctors' pay could be increased by 3 percent and that of nurses, by 6 percent - not enough to placate medical professionals who will strike starting October 1. Doctors are calling for a 20 percent raise and nurses, 40 percent.
Meanwhile, the two major state and local government employees' unions announced on Wednesday that they would hold support strikes for the health care workers.