Workers at Yerevan’s Nayirit Rubber Plant have once again raised their voices, demanding that they get paid several months of back wages.
Rafik Petrosyan has been on paid leave since February 2010. He’s been working at the plant for twenty years as a locksmith. He hasn’t been paid wages for nine months. Rafik gets two-thirds of his regular salary while on leave.
The plant owes Rafik about one million AMD in back wages. He’s been forced to work odd jobs to maintain a family of six.
Another worker, who wished to remain anonymous, told me he received his wages for December 2011 this September. He hasn’t received any wages for 2012. Yet another worker, who was laid off six months ago, it still waiting for the plant to settle up and pay him what it owes.
Most workers I talked to no longer believe that the factory will ever pay what they are owed.
“On the fifteenth of every month they tell us that we’ll get paid by month’s end. It never happens. It goes on like this every month,” says Rafik Petrosyan. “They always give us another story. The Chinese will buy the place, the Indians. There isn’t a country left in the world that is not on their list to buy the plant. Only Armenia won’t buy it. In the end, nobody is buying it.”
“The director tells us, ‘whoever wants to stay and work with us, fine. The rest can go.’ We all have kids to feed. Are they guilty that their fathers keep working but aren’t getting paid? The oligarchs open casinos and hotels. Hey, Mr. President, are you building a nation of casinos and hotels?” asks another disgruntled worker.
According to our research, those at the 100,000 AMD wage scale haven’t been paid for nine months. Those getting more than 100,000 haven’t seen a penny in wages for eleven months.
Anoush Haroutyunyan, who heads the plant’s press office, assures us that workers are only owed six months in back wages and that management are owed eight months.
“The government is assisting the plant regarding the salary issue. We’ve also talked to the Minister of Energy and they are looking into the matter as well,” says Haroutyunyan.
Despite the wage issue, some managers and workers still show up daily at the plant.
When I visited the plant, workers said metal scrap is being sold off.
Anoush Haroutyunyan confirmed this, saying the plant has huge amounts of junk metal that must be sold. She denied that any equipment or machines were being removed.
A Hetq government source reports that last year the plant signed a contract for the sale of 8,000 tons of scrap metal and that 7,000 tons have already been delivered.
The plant had 2,100 employees in 2006-2007 who turned out 700-800 tons of product. Total wage expenditures for those years were around 160 million AMD.
There were 1,400 on the production line in 2010 and 700 in services and management. 100 million of the total 160 million went to the workers and 60 million to service employees and management.
Monthly wage expenditures for the plant today are around 560 million AMD. This is for a factory that doesn’t operate.
According to Hetq’s government source, the monthly salary of the plant’s chief director is around 7 million AMD. His deputies supposedly get 3.5 million.
The Nayirit Plant hasn’t operated since February 2010. Some $40 million in salaries has been paid since then. The plant has taken out loans to pay the wages.
On October 2, plant workers assembled outside the gates and demanded that they be paid.
Plant Executive Director Hovik Hakhinyan told them to wait until November 15. A rumor is going around about a Russian company interested in buying the crumbling factory.
Anoush Haroutyunyan told us she’s heard the rumors for several months but advised us to ask the Ministry of Energy for definite clarification.