Dozens more minibus drivers in Yerevan refused to work Thursday on the second day of a strike action organized by their colleagues in protest against a sharp rise in the price of liquefied gas used by their vehicles.
The price went up by over 20 percent late last week following a sizable depreciation of the national currency, the dram. The fuel sold by liquefied gas stations is imported from Russia at a price set in U.S. dollars. The national distribution network, Gazprom Armenia, has not raised its retail prices so far.
The strike began in Yerevan’s Malatia-Sebastia district on Wednesday and spread to minibus routes operating from at least two other parts of the capital the following day. In the Nor Nork suburb, about 100 empty minibuses were parked along a street as their drivers rallied to demand a price cut.
The drivers, who are also responsible for collecting fares, say that because of the higher gas price they are unable to not only earn any personal income but also meet daily revenue targets set by their private employers. They said they have run up substantial debts as a result.
“Has anyone asked the drivers whether they have earned anything in the past five days?” one of the angry protesters told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We have only gotten into debt. They are already demanding that we repay our debts. But how can we do that?”
Henrik Navasardian, the head of the Yerevan municipality’s public transport department, again met with the drivers and tried in vain to make them end the strike. “We can’t solve the problem by just standing here,” he told the Nor Nork drivers.
Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian mentioned the protests at a cabinet meeting earlier in the day. He claimed that the gas price has already fallen back from 230 drams (about 50 U.S. cents) to 200 drams per cubic meter. The price varied from 210 to 230 drams at liquefied gas stations across Yerevan as of Thursday evening, however.