Pension Reform and Revolt: More civil disobedience as Court weighs new law

For several days now staffs of various companies and economic entities have been rebelling against the controversial pension reform, nonetheless, the mandatory deductions from their salaries continue to be made, while authorities are convinced the unrest will soon subside.

On Thursday, the Armenian Electric Networks (AEN) company employees joined the standoff demanding to return the “illegally deducted money” from their salaries made for the pension funds.

The company press secretary Natalya Sarajanyan countered, saying during her meeting with the press, that AEN had done nothing illegal and had simply abided by the law. She gave assurance that the deducted money was kept in a special account, no transfers were made, no pension funds selected, and if the Constitutional Court ruled to suspend the new law on mandatory pension savings, the money would be returned to the employees. Sarajanyan says, the company has 8,000 workers, to whom the law applies to 2,500 (born after 1974).

On Wednesday, a few dozen subway workers held an act of protest at one of the Yerevan Metro stations, while on Monday some 50 employees of the South-Caucasian Railways CJSC threatened to go on strike and the National Academy of Opera and Ballet performers rebelled by refusing to go on stage.

The four oppositional factions joined the civil initiative and filed a motion to the CC, which led to the court’s January 24 decision partially suspending the application of the law until its final decision to be made in early spring. Meanwhile, citizens failing to make the mandatory 5-10 percent monthly payments to the pension funds as provided for by the new law should not be fined.

The authorities and many employers, however, have ignored the CC procedural decision, claiming that the court has not suspended the application of the law.

Despite the ongoing acts of protest, many believe they would not lead to a social revolt.

Manvel Sargsyan, leading the Armenian Center for National and International Studies, told ArmeniaNow that it is something new that recently certain economic entity staffs unite into a civil protest against a law they find unacceptable. However, he says, it is hard to predict whether it might actually turn into a public rebellion.

“This demonstrates that, in fact, all the strata of society are joining the standoff and if the authorities continue acting harsh, it is merely a matter of time that broad front unrest unfolds in the country,” says Sargsyan.

Sociometer Center director Aharon Adibekyan says because Armenia has international commitments it is highly unlikely that she would give up the pension reform, however says large-scale social rebellion is equally unlikely, despite the ongoing acts of protest and disturbances.

Ruling Republican faction leader Galust Sahakyan shared an opinion that despite the existing protest among the society, there might have been greater civil turbulences across the country rather that what is happening now.