A number of drivers of public transport minibuses in Yerevan went on strike on Tuesday to protest against the recent rise in fuel prices in Armenia. The drivers argued that the price hike decreased their earnings significantly as they still have to pay a fare of 12-15 000 drams to the “route owners” daily, no matter whether they go to work or not.
“Our main problem is the increase in fuel prices. What can I demand of the route owner? He hasn’t increased the fare, the route works normally,” one of the protesters told a group of Yerevan Municipality officers.
“We used to spend 6000 drams on fuel and drive 5 rounds; now we spend 8000 and drive only 4. Not only that, but the the fuel quality has gone down as well,” another driver complained.
Henrik Navasardyan, the head of the transportation department of the Yerevan Municipality, came to the scene of the protest in the capital’s Malatia-Sebastia district. “Yes, prices have gone up, there’s no denying that. But this is no way to solve an issue,” he told the protesters. He added that the issue “is being discussed in the tops.”
Several drivers told reporters that their strike had been partially agreed with the “route owners;” the latter have supposedly told the drivers they were allowed to take the issue to the street if they agreed to limit their demands to a decrease in fuel prices and an increase in transportation fares. “They’ll never accept a lesser income, but I’m the one doing the work and damaging my health. The route owners are [the municipality officers’] bosses themselves – [Yerevan mayor] Taron [Margaryan], [former Parliament speaker] Galust Sahakyan, lawmakers and all sorts of KGB agents. What have they ever done for Yerevan’s public transport? If they cut our daily fare, they’d even be able to decrease the transport fares,” one of the argued.
Alik Gevorgyan, an adviser to Yerevan’s mayor, urged the protesters to go back to work and promised to find a solution to the issue through discussions with the so-called route owners. “I drove all day yesterday and went home with no money in my pocket. Would you go back to work the next day if you didn’t get any money for an entire day’s work?” a driver asked Gevorgyan but received no reply from the official.
“I get three days off work a month and waste this time taking the vehicle for maintenance and repair, which I have to pay for myself. I repair something at least twice a month. I pay the route owner 15 000 drams everyday and am left with an income of around 3000. If I get sick and am unable to drive that day, I still have to pay this money from my own pocket,” a protester said.