Pension Protest: Pressure group stages another action against controversial reform

Members of the pressure group campaigning against a controversial pension reform staged another protest on Friday, this time in front of the Ministry of Finance building. During the action three members of the movement were briefly detained by police.

With whistles, banners, vuvuzelas and drums employed to show protest against the law that stipulates all citizens born after 1973 to pay an additional five to 10 percent of their salaries to privately owned pension funds, participants of the action expressed their complaint to Finance Minister David Sargsyan, who recently stated that those employers who deducted money from their employees’ salaries but did not transfer them to the funds may be subject to double liability.

Many employers who have to make the deductions since the system works automatically have preferred not to transfer them to the bridge account of the State Treasury as the Constitutional Court, which will start looking into the constitutionality of the law later this month, in late January suspended the use of sanctions for not complying with the mandatory elements of the controversial reform.

Members of the movement believe the minister’s statement was meant to intimidate employers to make them join the mandatory system so that they could use it as evidence in the Court that numerous people have agreed to comply with the law.

According to the minister, if employers do not make the necessary transfers, then they could get incomes from these sums, while if the transfers are made, then the incomes will go to employees, who are beneficiaries of the system. Hence, he claimed, employers violate the rights of their employees.

“The minister says that the contributions are to be made to a special treasury account. But why doesn’t he say that the money could as well be returned to the employee?” movement member David Manukyan responded.

Several hundred young people gathered at the Finance Ministry to demand a meeting with the minister to hear his explanations. But only the chief of the ministry staff came down to meet the protesters. After hearing the official, the young people demanded that the minister make explanations personally. Since the minister did not come down, the protesters blocked the nearby street, which prompted police officers to detain three of the protesters.

Then the young protesters threw coins in front of the ministry building, claiming that the state system is robbing them, and went to the police station to support the detained activists, who were released later on.

In recent days some media have speculated that the authorities have decided to make concessions in the matter of the pension law as they realize that the wave of protests does not subside. In particular, options of postponing the enforcement of the law for a year or including the mandatory contributions to the income tax are reportedly being discussed.