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Armenia: rubber workers still protest over unpaid wages

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20 May, 2015On 14-15 May, employees of the Nairit rubber plant, Armenia, held a two-day protest action in front of the government building. The 200 workers were demanding payment of a 18-month wage arrears.

In February 2014, 1800 workers of the Nairit plant were laid off. So far, the workers have yet to receive their wages for the last 18 months of work.

Since February this year, former employees together with some of the 480 remaining workers have held weekly protest actions. On Tuesdays they would gather outside the presidential residence, on Thursdays outside the government building. The protesters demand that the country’s leaders draft a clear plan to eliminate the wage arrears now estimated at a total of USD 15 million.

Workers are also demanding that the Nairit plant operations resume. According to a World Bank feasibility study, the amount required is estimated to a US$250-350 million. However, workers do not agree. According to their calculations US$55-65 million would be sufficient to resume operations, the plant would become self-sustaining in three years and its operations would help to develop other industries of Armenia.

The Nairit plant operations were terminated in February 2010, putting more than 1,500 workers on a forced paid leave until February 2015. Protests demanding to clear the wage arrears have been held on a regular basis since 2012.

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. In 2006, 90 per cent of Nairit’s shares were sold to British Rhinoville Property Limited. The remaining 10 per cent belong to the Armenian government.