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Armenia: rubber workers protest over unpaid wages

17 December, 2014Employees of the Nairit rubber plant in the Armenian capital of Yerevan have been picketing government buildings demanding the elimination of 18-month wage arrears, estimated at a total USD13 million.

On 4 December, more than 1,000 employees of the Nairit rubber plant gathered outside the presidential residence demanding to clear 18-month wage arrears. Workers also protested against a notice of dismissal sent out to many of them. The protestors were back 8 and 15 December to continue to voice their demands.

Currently only 770 people are working at the plant, but there are 1,667 more employees that have been on a forced paid leave for the last four years.

Recent protests were launched after the management declared a massive layoff. More than 1,500 workers who have been furloughed for four years face layoffs in February, as the new contracts will be signed with 500 people only to ensure the plant’s future maintenance. Before that, protestors want the plant to clear the wage arrears estimated at a total USD13 million. On 2 December, employees received one-month wages despite their demand to pay the wages for the last 1.5 years.

At a meeting with the Nairit representatives on 13 December Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamya advised that the workers should rather seek solutions from the plant’s Board of Directors. According to the Prime Minister, international experts from the World Bank are due to conduct a feasibility study on the possibility of resuming Nairit’s operations and are expected to provide a conclusion in February-March 2015.

Nairit was the only plant in the Soviet Union to produce chloroprene rubber, a synthetic rubber used as insulation material and a base for adhesives. The plant was closed in 1989 for environmental reasons and resumed partial operations in 1992. In 2006, 90 per cent of Nairit’s shares were sold to British Rainoville Property Limited. The remaining 10 per cent belong to the Armenian government. In December 2013, Russia's oil giant Rosneft announced its plan to invest USD 400 million in the Nairit rubber plant, but the company was forced to cancel the plans.