The workers blocked the main highway of the country between Yerevan and Gyumri in order to receive back pay and prepare for the New Year
Workers constructing the North-South highway in Armenia blocked the Yerevan-Gyumri highway yesterday.
After a four-hour strike, movement on the highway was restored, but the demands of the workers have not yet been met. Workers say they will close the road again if their demands are not addressed.
The construction workers claim that they have not been paid since August. They say they have been unable to meet with officials and that this is why they have taken such a radical step.
Some workers said that the decision to block the road was motivated by the fact that New Years is around the corner, and they have nothing with which to set the table.
Among the workers are parents who need to pay their children’s university tuition fees. Some of the builders also have personal loans to pay. One of them said:
“I have a bank loan which I cannot pay off due to the non-payment of my salary. After the New Year holidays my case will be brought to court, and I do not see any way out of the situation. The bank is not interested in why I’m insolvent. I am not guilty, I have worked conscientiously for all these months, and I must be paid for my work.”
Their need to meet with government members was not met. Instead, the governor of the Aragatsotn region, David Gevorgyan, visited the protesters and called on them to resolve the problem through the courts. The governor said that 700 workers have not received their salaries. The reason being that subcontractors have not received money from the contractor, a Spanish company.
What is the North-South Highway?
The North-South Highway is the largest transport project to be undertaken in independent Armenia.
The road connects the north and south of the country, connecting Armenia to Georgia and thus to the Black Sea and European countries. From the south, the highway connects the country with Iran. Thanks to this project, Armenia can become a transit country.
Construction began in 2012, but so far only one of the five sites has been commissioned. The authorities will have to find financing to complete construction, and will most likely have to look to international lenders for funding.
The new authorities of Armenia stated that they intend to continue building the road, despite the fact that experts consider the project too costly and have suggested investing in other strategic programmes. Even by the most conservative estimates, the 490-kilometre span of road will cost more than two billion dollars.
The Armenian government’s position
The Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology recognizes that there is a problem with wages that are in arrears. Acting Minister Hakob Arshakyan is going to meet with the contracting company to discuss the issue.
The Armenian government states that all of its financial obligations to the private company implementing the construction work have been fulfilled and has nothing to do with the salary delays.