Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian assured hundreds of employees of Armenia’s largest chemical plant on Tuesday that they will finally receive their back wages next month.
Abrahamian met representatives of the workers as they again demonstrated outside his office to demand more than one year’s worth of back pay and the reactivation of the troubled Nairit giant. He said President Serzh Sarkisian has told the Armenian government to “find financial means” to eliminate the wage arrears by July 15. Energy and Natural Resources Minister Yervand Zakharian will set up a special commission for that purpose, added Abrahamian.
The workers’ representatives communicated this pledge to the angry crowd standing outside the government building. “They have found a positive solution to our problem,” one of them said.
But many protesters were skeptical about the assurances. “We won’t believe them until we get our money,” one man told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Abrahamian said in March that the government, which now effectively controls Nairit, is not responsible for the company’s wage debt estimated at around $15 million.
The Soviet-built plant has barely operated since 2011. The government laid off 1,700 of its workers in January.
Abrahamian on Tuesday also discussed with the workers ways of salvaging the plant. He said the government is open to “reasonable, realistic and substantiated” proposals to that effect.
Zakharian said last month that a recent audit conducted by the World Bank concluded that Nairit would remain a loss-making business if it were to be reactivated. But the minister insisted that the government still thinks that the company can avoid liquidation.