More than 30 pilots and other former employees of Armavia gathered outside the offices of Armenia’s bankrupt national airline on Wednesday to demand their wages not paid since last autumn.
The protesters as well as hundreds of other staff have been out of work since the debt-ridden private company terminated its flights on April 1. They were not paid in the months leading up to its bankruptcy.
Armavia pledged to start eliminating the wage arrears on June 7 after facing similar protests last month. It claimed to be honoring that pledge.
“Some of the back wages were paid on June 7, and the process will definitely continue,” Armavia spokeswoman Nana Avetisova told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Everybody will get paid.”
The protesting employees dismissed those assurances, however, saying that only a small number of Armavia workers, most of them flight attendants, were paid for October and November. “The pilots, engineers and technicians are neglected,” one of them said, adding that they are owed an average of over 3 million drams ($7,300) each.
Two representatives of the protesters were allowed to enter the head office of Armavia’s parent company, Mika Limited, and meet a top company executive. They said he promised that they will start getting some of their back wages in the coming days. “But that is not a solution,” one of them told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Armavia employed more than 30 experienced pilots during the final months of its operations. Some of them have already left Armenia and found new jobs at foreign airlines.
“Three of my colleagues went to Kazakhstan yesterday, while two others went to Tbilisi today to make work arrangements,” said one of the protesting pilots.
“We still hope to be able to work in Armenia,” said another pilot. “If they pay us our wages we will wait longer for that.”
The Armenian government announced last week that it will seek to replace Armavia with up to three domestic carriers to be selected on a competitive basis. The head of the government’s Civil Aviation Department, Artyom Movsesian, said they will have to pledge to hire Armavia pilots and other technical personnel.