The Armenian government on Wednesday denied growing allegations that it has ordered employers to ensure that their workers do not exercise their legal right to opt out of a new and controversial pension system.
Deputy Prime Minister Armen Gevorgian said the government is aware of reports that many public sector employees have been warned that they will lose their jobs if they refuse to have a large part of their salaries withheld for their future pensions.
“The government too has received alarming reports and is already taking corresponding measures,” Gevorgian said, answering a question from an opposition deputy on the parliament floor. “I want to assure everyone that the law will be enforced just as it was adopted by the National Assembly.”
“If there are instances like the ones mentioned by you please inform us and we will take measures,” he added.
The reform was supposed to become optional for Armenians born after 1973 after the government and the National Assembly enacted amendments to a law regulating the country’s transition to the new retirement plan. Workers can now choose not to be covered by it if they lodge corresponding applications with their employers.
Dem Em, a pressure group campaigning against the pension reform, says that the government has ordered the heads of public and private institutions to ignore or reject such requests. Reports in the Armenian media have given weight to these allegations.
Dem Em leaders claimed on Tuesday that some 200 young medics at the Nork-Marash heart clinic in Yerevan are illegally prevented from refusing the extra social security contributions equivalent to at least 5 percent of their gross wages. Some of those doctors and nurses confirmed this when they spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). The conversations with them were cut short by an angry man who presented himself as the hospital’s deputy director.
The hospital director, Lida Muradian, insisted on Wednesday she has not pressurized her personnel unwilling to accept the reform. Meeting with Dem Em activists and journalists, Muradian admitted that some of those employees formally applied for an exemption but still had sizable sums deducted from their May wages.