By Armen Zakarian
Personnel of the nuclear power station in Metsamor, not paid since March, cancelled their planned strike on Tuesday as the Armenian government began paying their back wages. Metsamor workers received their April salaries on the day they had threatened to stop work at all operational divisions of the plant except the reactor.
“In accordance with the promises of the prime minister and the energy minister, we have received our April wages and will be paid for another month before August 10,” said, one of their representatives, Vahagn Mkrtchian.
The plant’s director general, Suren Azatian, looked very satisfied as he spoke to RFE/RL. He said: “I must disappoint those who wanted the plant’s staff to begin a strike today. The consciousness and sense of responsibility of the personnel is really high.”
While supporting demands of his employees, Azatian has condemned their strike threats. The protest action was called off in the morning after he conveyed to them a government pledge to gradually clear all wage arrears before the end of this year.
Deputy Energy Minister Ara Simonian acknowledged last week that lack of financial resources means that the government will not be able to promptly repay all of its debts. The government is at pains to raise $13 million to pay for fresh deliveries of Russian nuclear fuel. It has already paid the Russian ministry of atomic energy $ 4 million as an advance against the upcoming partial refuelling of the plant.
Metsamor’s only operational reactor was halted on July 10 for the next 45 days for scheduled maintenance and reloading of nuclear fuel. The only nuclear facility in the region, which accounts for over 40 percent of Armenia’s electricity output, is owed a staggering $120 million by the Hayenergo national power grid and is unable to meet its basic expenses.