Former and current employees of a giant idling chemical plant in Yerevan have decided to hold protests on a daily basis demanding their back wages that some of them have not received for nearly two years.
Hundreds of them again gathered near the Armenian president’s office on Monday to raise the issue. Similar protests near the central government offices and the presidential palace last week did not result in a solution for the disgruntled workers.
As many as 1,700 employees of Nairit, a Soviet-era plant known for its synthetic rubber production, were laid off earlier this month as the situation of the debt-stricken enterprise worsened. Most of the protesters engaged in the current protests are those who lost their jobs recently. They say the plant administration has not paid them their wages for between 18 and 24 months. Nairit’s total wage arrears are estimated at some $15 million today.
Recently, the Armenian government announced that the World Bank intends to hire a consulting company to audit the plant and evaluate its technical state and financial viability. A total of $110,000 has been allocated for the purpose.
Anush Harutiunian, a spokesperson for Nairit, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun) that numerous such audits have been conducted during the past five years and each of them has provided a positive conclusion. “But why isn’t the plant working? I have no answer to this question,” she said.
Former Nairit workers also sounded skeptical about the government initiative. Many said they no longer hoped for the reoperation of the enterprise.
“If they wanted to re-operate Nairit, they could do it even tomorrow. But they simply don’t want to do that,” one former worker complained.