YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Employees of Yerevan’s underground metro system demonstrated outside its administration building on Wednesday to add their voice to continuing protests against a controversial pension reform.
The several dozen train drivers and technicians joined the protests after discovering a sizable reduction of their wages resulting from Armenia’s ongoing transition to a new pension system. A collective petition signed by them condemned the deductions to private pension funds and demanded their reversal.
“We want them to give back our money. We are also against the pension funds,” one of the protesters told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“For a person living on 90,000 drams ($220) 5,000-7,000 drams is a lot of money. How am I going to support my kids?” said another metro worker born after 1973 and therefore covered by the reform.
Another worker claimed that his monthly wage has decreased by 14,000 drams. “I could have paid my [monthly] electricity bill with that money,” he said.
The metro management promised to respond to the demands in the coming days. The protesting workers made clear that they are not yet planning a strike.
The unpopular measure has also triggered street protests by young employees of other state-run and private companies, including more than 100 railway workers. Representatives of those workers on Wednesday again met with top executives of Armenia’s national rail network to discuss the situation. They said the company’s Russian management refused to stop collecting the extra social security taxes, referring their complaints to the government.
Despite the rebuff, the rail workers refrained from acting on their threats to go on strike. They said that they and hundreds of their colleagues will instead take part in a fresh anti-government demonstration in Yerevan planned by the Dem.Am pressure group leading the campaign against the controversial reform.
Armenia’s electric utility workers also joined the protests on Thursday, demanding that their company stop deducting payments until the Constitutional Court has made a final ruling on the law.