At the ongoing demonstration by Nairit Plant workers outside the Government Building, one of the demonstrators asked a government official if it would be possible for the state to pay the workers’ utility bills.
When the official said “no”, the worker retorted, “Then pay us our back wages so that he can pay those bills.”
The workers then went on to say that three years ago the Energy Minister went on record in the National Assembly that the Nairit issue would be resolved in twenty days.
“Those twenty days has now turned into three years. We want to know what to expect. We understand that this is Armenia, a washing machine where money is laundered, but it cannot go on like this,” exclaimed the worker, one of about 100 who showed up for today’s protest.
Alexander Ghazaryan, who heads the department that deals with the acceptance and discussion of citizen requests, assured the workers that the plant wasn’t under the threat of bankruptcy and that negotiations were underway with the new management.
Workers then asked Ghazaryan why the government hasn’t brought charges against those former Nairit managers who mismanaged plant operations.
Ghazaryan said that was another issue entirely and avoided any comment.
Earlier, the government promised to pay the workers one month’s worth of salary by the end of the week and another month’s salary by the end of May.
When Hetq asked Ghazaryan where the government would get the money, the official said he didn’t know.
The workers found the offer unacceptable and a number of them started to march towards the Presidential Palace to voice their grievances.
Hrach Tadevosyan, the head of the plant’s labor union, chose not to join them.
Tadevosyan argued that the march wasn’t the right thing to do. “We organized a march towards the Government Building only. If they want to go elsewhere, let them,” he said.
When Hetq asked Tadevosyan if the role of the union wasn’t in fact to defend workers’ rights and to convey their grievances to the proper authorities, he shot back, “Give me a break already. You know about your job and I know about mine.”
The union leader added that he knew the by-laws of the union by heart. His reticence seemed to inflame the workers even more.
Photo: Hrach Tadevosyan, Alexander Ghazaryan (l to r)