The Russian management of Armenia’s national rail network on Wednesday reassured workers of a railway depot in the northern Lori province that none of them will lose their jobs as a result of its upcoming restructuring.
The depot located near historic Sanahin village has also been one of the country’s main railway stations for more than a century. It currently employs 135 local residents. Another 100 or so people work for various auxiliary services supporting the facility.
The company called the South Caucasus Railway (SCR) announced last month that its cargo and passengers will no longer stop at Sanahin and that the depot will be merged with a bigger facility existing in Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri. It said the measure is part of a broader restructuring of the SCR.
The depot employees reacted angrily to the announcement, saying that it is a prelude to mass layoffs. The SCR has since been at pains to assure them that there will be no staff cuts and that some of them will only be required to perform different tasks.
The company’s Russian chief executive, Shevket Shaydulin, insisted that the number of depot employees will actually grow by 12 as he again met with the angry staff. “This place is like my home,” he said. “I didn’t visit the local school by chance. Why did I do that? Because we need this facility.”
Most of the workers remained unconvinced, however, walking out of the meeting room mid-way through Shaydulin’s speech. They returned only after company executives pledged to sign new five-year employment contracts with them.
The SCR has not yet specified what will happen to the other people working at the Sanahin station.
The SCR is run by Russia’s state-rain railway, RZD, in accordance with a long-term management contract signed by it with the Armenian government three years ago. The deal committed the Russians to investing $230 million in Armenia during the first five years of operations and another $240 million in the following years.
The government repeatedly accused them last year of failing to honor this and other contractual obligations. RZD responded by promising to fully honor its investment commitments by the end of 2010.
Shaydulin said on Wednesday that the Armenian rail network is gradually ceasing to be loss-making. “We will get stronger and become one of the best national companies,” he said.