Three former employees of Yerevan’s underground metro system who were fired last year after attending an anti-government protest have appealed against an ambiguous court ruling on their efforts to regain their jobs.
Andranik Gevorgian, Gagik Gasparian and Sevak Hovannisian were among several dozen metro workers who gathered outside the state-run company’s offices in February 2014 to protest against a controversial pension reform initiated by the Armenian government.
Gevorgian personally handed a petition signed by his colleagues to the metro’s top executives during the protest. Speaking to reporters, he and Gasparian criticized the reform envisaging sizable deductions from the wages of Armenians born after 1973.
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.
The fired workers rejected the official explanation, saying that their dismissal was retribution for their active participation in the demonstration. They went on to ask a district court in Yerevan to reinstate them in their positions currently held by other persons hired by the metro.
In a ruling handed down last month, the court invalidated their dismissals but at the same time stopped short of ordering the metro administration to rehire Gevorgian, Hovannisian and Harutiunian. It said only that they must be financially compensated for the period of time they have been out of work.
The plaintiffs said on Thursday that they have appealed to Armenia’s Court of Appeals. “I want justice,” Harutiunian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “If the judge decided that they were wrong, why didn’t he order them to rehire us?”
The metro administration has also lodged an appeal with the higher court. Its chief legal counsel, Artak Yeremian, said the company does not want to compensate its former employees because it believes that they were fired in accordance with Armenian law.
None of three men has found another permanent job so far. “I can’t borrow money because I don’t know for sure I’ll get a job anytime soon and be able to repay it,” said Harutiunian, a father of four.
The pension reform triggered demonstrations in Yerevan by not only metro staff but also thousands of other affected Armenians mostly working in the private sector. Later in 2014, the government decided to make the new pension system optional for private sector employees until July 2017.