Car makers’ worker unions welcome Madras HC order


The worker unions in two major foreign automobile makers have welcomed the Madras High Court’s order to the Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health to inspect auto units and arrive at a uniform guideline on maintenance of social distancing at the shop floors.

“We welcome the High Court’s order. There could be only two reasons for the Covid-19 infection to spread amongst factory workers viz the safety guideline of the state government is insufficient or the safety guidelines are not implemented by the companies,” a union official in Hyundai Motor India Ltd (HMIL) told IANS preferring anonymity.

“The inspection will also bring out the unlawful labour practices followed by companies. Other automobile units may be upset with Renault Nissan Automotive for linking them in this case,” Moorthy, General Secretary, Renault Nissan India Thozhilalar Sangam (RNITS) told IANS.

The court made the order while hearing the case of Renault Nissan India Thozhilalar Sangam versus Renault Nissan Automotive India Private Ltd.

The company had submitted to the court that it is being singled out to follow the 3:1 empty pitch at its assembly lines while none of the other automobile makers near here or in India follow that.

“Simply put, after three cars in the conveyor belt, one slot will be empty so that a worker need not move to the next workstation to complete his work,” RNITS President K. Balaji Krishnan had told IANS.

When the case came up for hearing on Tuesday, the counsel for Renault Nissan Automotive said none of the other automotive units — Hyundai Motor, Ford India, BMW, Daimler and others — located near here or in the country like Maruti are maintaining the 3:1 empty pitch.

This resulted in the court ordering the visit of a senior official of Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health to the automobile plants and come out with a uniform guideline for maintenance of social distance in factories.

At Hyundai Motor, the night shift has been stopped and to that extent about 4,000 workers will not be attending work that shift. Other than that, there is no change in the production/conveyor line, the union official said.

According to him, the Hyundai Motor factory near here rolls out about 55 cars per hour.

Twelve Hyundai Motor workers have died due to Covid-19 and over 800 were infected with coronavirus, the official added.

He hoped the inspection by the state government would result in maintenance of social distancing at the factory level.

“If the production level per hour is reduced by 50 per cent, then social distancing could be maintained at the shopfloor level,” said.

Worker union officials told IANS that it is only they who know how to manage the production by maintaining social distance and not the management.

An active dialogue between the two would result in smooth operations.

The Ford India union official said many of the issues raised by RNITS were flagged at his company a year back and were sorted out.

“May be one or two aspects that may be very difficult to address at the production line are pending,” the official added.

Further compared to Hyundai Motor production volumes, the number of cars rolled out by Ford India is far low.

The per hour production at Ford India plant is about 30 units down from 36 units earlier.

According to him, the company has provided goggles in addition to masks so that two workers can work safely in close proximity in some stations.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at