Three employees of Yerevan’s underground metro system have asked a municipal court to overturn their controversial dismissal, saying that it was retribution for their active participation in recent protests against a controversial pension reform.
Andranik Gevorgian, Gagik Gasparian and Sevak Hovannisian were among several dozen metro workers who gathered outside the state-run company’s offices on February 12 to protest against sizable deductions from their modest wages. Like thousands of other disgruntled Armenians, they argued that the reform was suspended by the Constitutional Court in January.
Gevorgian, who joined the protest despite not being covered by the unpopular measure because of his age, personally handed a petition signed by his colleagues to the metro’s top executives. Speaking to reporters, he as well as Gasparian criticized the Armenian government for initiating the reform.
All three men were fired two days later. The metro management denied any connection between their dismissal and the vocal protest, saying that they have for years failed to properly perform their duties. It evoked a clause in Armenian labor legislation allowing employees to fire personnel in case of a “loss of confidence.”
The men’s lawyer, Kristine Gevorgian, dismissed the official explanation on Wednesday, saying that her clients had never been formally reprimanded or warned by their superiors, something which is required by law. “They were fired without even being able to give explanations,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The plaintiffs insisted that they lost their jobs because of challenging the pension reform on the street. “We have worked for the metro for 15 years,” said Gasparian. “I would even say that our bosses always relied on us in performing important tasks. They trusted us more than others.”
Protests against the reform have also been staged in recent weeks by many employees of private firms, the national railway and electricity companies and even Armenia’s National Opera and Ballet Theater.