Workers at the railway depot in Gyumri, the second-largest city in Armenia, turned to the country’s authorities after coming to work and finding that several conductors invited from Russia had taken their place, ArmTimes.com reports.
South Caucasus Railway is a wholly owned subsidiary of Russia’s state-controlled Russian Railways. In 2008, Armenia signed a concession agreement which transferred the state-owned joint-stock company Armenian Railway over to Russian Railways for the next 30 years.
The Armenian railway workers were not informed in advance that they would be laid off from their jobs. And their Russian colleagues, according to local conductors, started working almost immediately after arriving in Armenia. They did not pass the probationary period and did not even familiarize themselves with equipment or space.
According to the railway workers, they came to work as usual on the morning of November 19, but were not allowed to run the trains, as it turned out that the Russian conductors were already there working.
“They told our guys: you’ll be our reserve forces, but the trains will be run by Russians. We got absolutely no notice. I have a shift right now, but I went in and looked at the schedule, and across from my name, the words ‘on unpaid leave’ are written. But they never told me why. They sent me “on leave,” and replaced me with some Russian,” said one of the Armenian conductors.
Local workers believe that the actions of the Russian company are a threat to Armenian national security. In their letter sent to various authorities, they implored them to verify the identity of all the Russian conductors, as well as their right to operate trains in Armenia.
“They called it an ‘exchange of experience’ and put the Russians in our place. They started work almost immediately after getting off the plane. They are not familiar with the trains, the route—any of it,” another Armenian worker said.
Incidentally, two trains operated by Russian conductors have already been removed from service. According to locals, this happened precisely because the Russian employees are not trained to drive such trains.