The administration of the Metsamor nuclear power plant began formally accepting on Friday job termination requests from dozens of its employees after failing to ensure significant pay rises demanded by them.
It was not immediately clear, though, whether all of some 160 Metsamor workers who submitted their resignations 30 days ago have actually quit their jobs.
Under Armenia’s Labor Code, workers are considered to have been automatically relieved of their duties if their written termination requests are not granted or rejected within a 30-day period.
According to some of the protesting employees, the plant management formally accepted two dozen such applications early in the morning before holding last-minute negotiations with the workers. They reached a compromise agreement whereby the wages of Metsamor’s 1,700-strong staff would be raised by between 20 and 30 percent. The protesters had demanded a 50 percent pay increase.
However, the Armenian Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources vetoed the deal and offered a more modest pay rise that was rejected by the workers. The contract terminations are said to have resumed after that.
“Let them do whatever they want now. We don’t care how they will go about replacing us,” one Metsamor engineer told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Lusine Harutiunian, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, insisted that “discussions” on the issue will continue and a solution can be found in the next few days. But she did not elaborate.
Meanwhile, Metsamor’s executive director, Gagik Markosian, and other senior executives continued to avoid contact with media. It thus remained unclear how they plan to deal with the unprecedented walkout.
Both Markosian and the ministry said earlier that the mass resignations would not affect Metsamor’s operational safety.
Metsamor’s sole functioning reactor, which generates nearly 40 percent of Armenia’s electricity, was brought to a halt on September 5 for regular prophylactic repairs and partial refueling. It is due to be relaunched by the end of this month.