Disgruntled Nairit Rubber Plant employees again demonstrated outside the Government Building in Yerevan today demanding another meeting with Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan to discuss payment of the twenty months in back wages owed them.
One week ago, when plant representatives met with Yervand Zakharyan, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, they were told that the back wages issues couldn’t be resolved before the issue of the plant’s debts to the Interstate Bank was settled.
Plant press spokesperson Anoush Harutyunyan stated that the minister assured her that the wage issue would be resolved quickly once the Interstate Bank matter was settled.
The employees are also demanding that the plant, now idle, be re-launched. Estimates say it will take US$50-55 million to do so and that the investor would recoup the amount in three years.
When Nairit labor union head Hrach Tadevosyan advised the protestors to be patient and wait for the Interstate Bank debt issue to be resolved, he was met with jeers.
Many said it was the same old song that they’ve heard before. As a show of good faith the protestors demanded that the government at least promise to pay one month in back wages and then draft a payment schedule for the remainder by August.
In 2006, when the government sold Nairit to Rhinoville Property Limited, the offshore company took out a $70 million loan. $39 million was the sale price for Nairit and the remainder was to be invested in modernizing the Soviet-era plant. That money “disappeared” by the hands of those who engineered the transaction.
Later on, another loan, this time for $100 million was taken out for the plant. This amount was also squandered.
Interstate Bank has since gone to court and has received decisions in its favor to have the loan monies seized.