Larisa Paremuzyan

Vanadzor’s Ticking Time Bomb: Unpaid Wages and Environmental Hazards at Chemical Plant

Yesterday, 200 KimProm workers staged a protest outside the plant in Vanadzor and demanded several months of back wages due them.

They might be in for a very long wait.

The chemical plant owes a staggering one billion AMD to HayRusGazArd and has racked up another one billion unpaid electricity bill. KimProm also owes money to the Vanadzor Municipality in unpaid land and property taxes.

This has resulted in 100 million in unpaid wages to the plant’s 700 employees.

And no one, not the workers or the plant’s management, has a clue as to who actually owns Kim Prom.

Even Lori Provincial Governor Artour Nalbandyan confessed to Hetq yesterday that he has no clue who owns the plant.

Nalbandyan did say that the company is entangled in a number of court cases and that a freeze on corporate assets, if not already in place, is likely in the coming days.

Governor Nalbandyan, who showed up at yesterday’s protest, also voiced concerns about the environmental dangers posed by the plant.

Noting that government contracts with KimProm expire in a week, Nalbandyan asked what would happen to the large stores of underground chemicals once the plant stopped operating.

“There are 80-90 tons of ammonia and 500 tons of sulfuric acid stored there plus highly flammable gases. It’s an atomic bomb waiting to go off. Who will monitor the situation once the plant is shut?” Nalbandyan asked out loud.

Governor Nalbandyan didn’t have any good news for the protesting workers.

“Nothing has changed. I have nothing new to say,” he told the workers.

Edik Kharazyan, one of the workers who was at the protest, responded, “At least they should give us a few cents to get by. We are starving,”

In turn, Nalbandyan assured the workers that the government was involved in resolving the issue but that the right approach hadn’t been found.

This infuriated the protestors even more and they said they wouldn’t turn up for work until they got paid.

One unidentified protestor said the workers were being exploited and described the situation as genocide.

“If the government can’t feed its own people, what else can it mean? They can’t even find out who owns this company,” the protestor exclaimed.

To show the workers that he was on top of the situation, Nalbandyan said that he had been told that the owner was in Moscow and that he had declared that he was ready to go there and meet with the owner.

“But for some inexplicable reason, we couldn’t arrange to meet with him there,” Nalbandyan said.

The workers complain that their legal suits against KimProm to get their back wages have still to be reviewed more than a year later.

According to the workers, KimProm Ltd. Executive Director Snigorov seems content to wash his hands of the entire matter.

Hrachik Martirosyan, shift manager at the plant’s ammonia synthesis unit, said, “Snigorov has told us to do whatever we want.”

Martirosyan and Nalbandyan yesterday met for ten minutes to discuss the impasse with the central government in Yerevan. Upon returning to the protest Martirosyan said the line was bust and they couldn’t get through.

The workers said they would stage another demonstration tomorrow at 9am in front of the plant and that only a relief staff would cross the picket line.

“No work will be conducted at the plant. We will wait here until presidential advisor Armen Movsisyan graces us with his presence. Movsisyan is the only channel through which we can contact the plant owner,” Martirosyan said.