Larisa Paremuzyan

Madeline Tashjian Faces Tough Questioning from Akhtala Review Panel

Several weeks ago, a number of workers at the Akhtala Mining Enrichment Combine, sent an open letter to RA President Serzh Sargsyan, complaining about the way the plant is being run by Madeline Tashjian, wife of jailed American-Armenian businessman Serop Der-Boghossian.

Yesterday, at the Lori Regional Administration, their petition was reviewed at the behest of the RA Presidential Control Service. Madeline Tashjian was present.

The review panel revealed that a mere 40 million AMD of the 7.5 billion AMD in revenues of Metal Price, the company that owns the plant, was reinvested in the operation.

Akhtala Mayor Haykaz Khachikyan commented that during the past 12 years, Metal Price hasn’t invested a dime of its revenues to restore the company’s social facilities.

Madeline Tashjian could only respond that she had managers working on the problem. She did not comment on the complainants raised by the workers nor did she have anything to say about the death of a worker at the plant on February 25.

Five workers were present at the review and had to be helped by MP Karen Saribekyan to succinctly and cogently convey their demands. It appears that they were tongue-tied when appearing before Tashjian and feared being fired if they spoke up.

They raised the large wage disparity between management and the mine workers and the claim that their holiday pay had been miscalculated at a loss.

At the end of the review, in response to a question raised by this reporter, Gagik Mazmanyan, Deputy Director of the Lori Branch of the RA State Labor Inspectorate, stated that the management of the Akhtala Combine had violated certain of the workers’ rights. In particular, he noted safety wear, nutrition and paying those working in unsafe laboratory working conditions the same as regular employees.

MP Saribekyan said it was unconscionable for workers to be paid 37,000-40,000 AMD per month but that the minimum wage level was 32,500.

The workers who showed up at the review believe they will eventually be fired for speaking up. The younger ones told me that they are thinking of heading off to Sochi when the weather warms up.

Sochi will host the 2014 Winter Olympics and they’ve heard that construction is booming.