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French University Defends Layoffs


Armenia -- Joelle Le Morzellec, rector of the French University in Armenia, at a news conference in Yerevan, 31Aug 2010.

Armenia -- Joelle Le Morzellec, rector of the French University in Armenia, at a news conference in Yerevan, 31Aug 2010.

The administration of a Yerevan-based French-Armenian university defended on Tuesday the legality of recent mass sackings of its Armenian employees.


The French University in Armenia has dismissed 29 professors and lecturers, among them two faculty deans, since the beginning of July.

Many of the professors say the decisions are unfounded and illegal. In a joint lawsuit filed last week, 14 of them asked a Yerevan court to reinstate them in their positions.

“We terminated some of our lecturers’ contracts because they expired,” the university’s French rector, Joelle Le Morzellec, told reporters. She said some of them also “do not satisfy requirements necessary for teaching their subjects.”

Armenia -- Professors controversially dismissed from the French University in Armenia at a news conference, 31Aug 2010.
Several of the plaintiffs rejected these claims at a separate news conference later in the day. “We have never been subjected to any disciplinary action, neither verbally, nor in writing,” said Narine Kokhtieva, a French language instructor.

“If they had the decency to summon us and say, ‘You know, we don’t want to work with you anymore,’ we would sign all papers and quit. But they didn’t treat us like humans,” she claimed.

Kokhtieva and other protesting professors also said they had signed one-year employment contracts in 2007 and continued to teach at the university even after those expired last year. They argued that Armenia’s Labor Code allows employees to retain their jobs indefinitely in such cases.

The university’s financial and administrative affairs director, Vagharshak Meyroyan, insisted, however, that such contracts were extended by one year in 2008 and that the fired lecturers therefore can not qualify for permanent employment. But the protesting academics denied ever signing contract extensions.

Apart from suing the university, which was set up by the Armenian and French governments in 2003, they have also lodged complaints with the French Embassy in Yerevan, Armenia’s Ministry of Education, the State Labor Inspectorate and Artur Baghdasarian, the chairman of the university’s board of trustees. Baghdasarian is also the secretary of Armenia’s National Security Council.

“We are still ready to meet [the university administration,] try to understand reasons for our dismissal and find solutions,” said Marat Atovmian, a fired law professor.
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