YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Executives from Yerevan’s Nairit Plant Closed Joint-Stock Company have pledged to reimburse outstanding wages to nearly 3,000 workers who have not received compensation for at least two months.
Production of synthetic rubber was suspended at Nairit Plant CJSC in May 2009 following an explosion and fire within its production premises in which four workers were killed. The plant resumed operations in November of that year. The plant has been practically inoperative since March of this year due to a debt of about 1 billion drams (about 2.7 million) it owes to the electricity networks of Armenia.
Nairit Plant CJSC Labor Committee Chairman Hrach Tadevosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Thursday that salaries for June will soon be transferred to the workers’ accounts and at least half of the wages due for July will be paid by the end of this month. He said the administration had pledged there would be no unpaid wages till mid-September.
According to Tadevosian, Nairit’s director Vahan Melkonian is now in the Russian capital to hold negotiations with Moscow-based CIS Interstate Bank, the plant’s principal shareholder, about the future of the plant.
He said the continuing efforts to end the difficult situation will at least make sure that workers do not go on strike or resort to other means of large-scale protests.
“They do not want to create additional obstacles for the plant’s management in resolving these issues,” he said. “After all, I don’t think that the government will manage to pay the salaries to the Nairit workers if they stage protests.”
When RFE/RL approached some Nairit workers, they said that they preferred waiting for a little longer rather than become unemployed. Others said they were tired of constant promises by the administration.
About a decade ago the Armenian government divided Nairit into two parts and sold their shares separately to different foreign companies.
Yerevan Nairit Plant Company, the enterprise that was separated from the chemical giant has yet to manufacture any products. A joint Armenian-Chinese chloroprene rubber producing plant, Shanxi-Nairit, was launched in China earlier this year.
Tadevosian claims that the Armenian government, which still holds a 10-percent stake in Nairit, is doing nothing and “fails to remember that it has obligations to the plant’s workers.”
“We use the Russian natural gas in our production. Can’t our government mediate so that the Russians give a little less expensive gas to their company?” said Tadevosian.
Armenia’s Energy and Natural Resources Minister Armen Movsisian denies claims that the government is doing nothing to help the plant and blames the situation on the continuing effects of the global economic recession that has also affected Armenia’s chemical industry.
“Nothing like this is going on, the government is providing help. The matter will be resolved in a matter of days,” Movsisian said in an interview with RFE/RL. “The economic crisis has had a rather lasting impact on the chemical industry. This is the main reason, and this is the case throughout the world, not only in Armenia.”
Movsisian expressed confidence that Nairit will resume production in “one or two months.”