Defending the Defenders: Amended Labor Code gives job security guarantees to military volunteers

Photo: Photolure

This week, the Armenian Parliament passed a bill on amending the Labor Code, with which, henceforth, working issues related to volunteers who leave for frontline duty in Nagorno Karabakh will be regulated.

After April 1, 2016, when Azerbaijan unleashed military actions against the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), Armenian volunteers, who were actually not in military service, went to the frontline in large numbers. The changes in the law are to define additional job security guarantees for employees who will be considered volunteers.

According to the changes in the law, workplaces of those, who have left for homeland defense, will be preserved. The bill would compel employers to keep their (volunteers’) jobs. According to a mutual agreement between the employer and the employee the former will continue to pay their salaries.

Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Artem Asatryan, who is the author of the legislative changes, said that the law provides a set of additional guarantees for volunteers to be defined in the Labor Code, according to which, job places of volunteers will be preserved and their salaries will be paid for the period of participation in military operations.

Opposition MP Hrant Bagratyan stated during the discussion of the bill that the law has many shortcomings. According to him, the second paragraph of the law states that the principle of compensation is determined by agreement of the parties, but it is not clear what happens if the parties do not agree.

Meanwhile, Minister Asatryan explained that the agreement between parties refers to exclusively payment for work.

“It is possible that the employer has one worker and the latter left for the frontline as a volunteer. In this case, forcing the employer to maintain compensation during that period may add a disproportionate burden on the employer. Therefore it stipulates that an agreement should be reached between parties, and it should be determined by the collective agreement, which means that, first of all, the employer agrees to retain salaries,” said the minister.

Republican MP Hakob Hakobyan said that there is no need for the bill, because the labor rights of all volunteers who have left for Karabakh have been preserved, and employers paid them even more [than their regular salaries] after their return.

However, a few days ago popular radio host Yegor Glumov, who voluntarily went for the frontline as a reconnaissance platoon commander, told PanArmenian.net that many of the volunteers who left for the frontline have been dismissed from their workplaces.

“From my platoon only, 7-8 people faced such a problem. But the issue was resolved after media reports. Some employers agreed to again provide the volunteers with their jobs, frightened by the noise around the issue, whereas the problems of the rest have been solved at the presidential level,” said Glumov.

Heghine Bisharyan, the head of the Orinats Yerkir (Armenian Revival) parliamentary faction, addressing social guarantees for members of the families of volunteers, suggested keeping paying the salary of a perished volunteer, in case he or she has underage children.

MP Tevan Poghosyan, asking whether the law will refer only to employees of state institutions, said: “And if they are individual entrepreneurs and the tax inspection requires paying taxes, even though they have not worked, what will happen in this case, which body is going to settle the matter?”

In response Asatryan said that the proposed changes relate to both public and private employees.