“They answered so rudely, as if I was begging” - how the pandemic has affected traders in Azerbaijan
Due to the quarantine regime in Azerbaijan, most commercial facilities – cafes, restaurants, shops, shopping centers – have closed. Tens of thousands of people working in the service and trade sectors found themselves on forced leave for an indefinite period and with unclear futures.
One of them is Vagif, a curator of a network of fashion boutiques in Baku.
According to official data, as of April 8, 717 cases of coronavirus infection have been recorded in Azerbaijan. 8 people have died, 44 have recovered.
“It all started on March 12-13, when the shops were still working. Usually in the middle of the month we send a request for advances – it was not granted. And when I called the main office to find out the reason, they answered me so rudely, as if I were begging, and not asking for my own salary.”
“A few days later, several sellers were sent on vacation at their own expense, because there were fewer buyers. And on March 18 they called everyone and told us to write statements and go on unpaid leave for a month. They didn’t say anything about money at all – neither about an advance, nor about paying for the days already worked.
It was clear to all of us that this was illegal, but we did not object. As they say, HR will always find a way to fire you, and nobody wants to lose a job.
“I live with my retired mom, I have a lot of loans – that is, the prospect of being left without money has really strained me, to be honest. And by the way, not a single bank has yet to freeze loans. Only a few electronics stores did this.
“So, about March 24, we were again called to the office and paid for 14 days work (although we worked 18 days).
“And on April 2, we got the rest of our salary for March on our cards, but presented it as an advance for April.
“In general, no one understood anything, and no one is explaining anything to us.
The fact is that store employees, in addition to their salaries, also count on commissions. These percentages are a significant part of our income, and now they are gone. And we all worry about what will happen at the end of April. It seems that the state has obliged employers to pay wages during this period. But we are sure that if the tax service does not follow up with this, they will not give us anything.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Economy reports that the state is ready to pay part of the salary to employees who have an employment contract. To do this, the employer, whose business has suffered from the current situation, must submit an application, and part of the wages paid to employees will be transferred to their bank accounts. Payments are supposed to start this week.
Azerbaijan has introduced a strengthened quarantine regime.
The metro, parks and squares have been closed; the activities of most enterprises, organizations and institutions have been suspended as well.
A restriction has been introduced on the movement of citizens – in order to go out, everyone, except for workers in certain areas, must send a special SMS and get permission from the authorities.
Quarantine violators are fined.
Although the country has not yet officially declared a state of emergency, which, in fact, makes all of these measures illegal.
The authorities promise to pay compensation to the amount of $112 to those who lost their jobs due to all that is happening.