Workers’ safety can’t be compromised for production volume: HC to Renault Nissan (2nd Ld)

The Madras High Court on Monday asked the Franco-Japanese car joint venture Renault Nissan Automotive India Private Ltd to complete its study on maintaining social distance at the production line at the earliest.

The court also asked the company workers to resume duty on Tuesday and the state government to depute a senior officer to the factory to see the Covid-19 safety protocols there.

Hearing the case filed by the Renault Nissan India Thozhilalar Sangam (RNITS) the court directed the company to complete its study on the manner of maintaining the social distance in the production line and corrective measures are taken at the earliest.

The court also ordered Renault Nissan Automotive to submit the number of workers suffering from Covid-19, including how many of them are hospitalised and in their homes.

While the company submitted that it would provide the workers with face shields and masks the workers had said it would be difficult to work wearing them.

On the other hand, they had submitted that the company could look at a reduction in production volume that would result in maintaining social distance.

The counsel for RNITS said the workers didn’t report for duty on Monday as the company did not adhere to the Covid-19 safety protocol.

According to him, the exemption from the lockdown given to the factory is on the condition that Covid-19 safety measures are followed.

The court also observed that worker’s safety cannot be compromised for production volume.

Earlier RNITS said, its Executive Committee considered the apprehension of workers about their safety and not wanting to risk their lives.

According to the Union, the company management was not inclined to reduce production by cutting down the footfalls to maintain the social distance inside the plant.

The Union said, social distance is not maintained in the car plant’s body shop conveyor line.

That apart, the management did not give the Union any acceptance to their demand of rehabilitation measures for the family members of the workers who died due to the Covid-19 and with respect to the medical treatment for affected workers.

“So far 200 workers alone have been vaccinated with the 1st dose of the vaccine and they also have not developed immunity. The union’s request for operating line 1 in 3 shifts and line 2 in 2 shifts so as to ensure social distancing through reduced footfall, has not been accepted by the management,” RNITS has written to the company management.

Last week, the RNITS had declared an indefinite boycott of work from May 26 onwards till Covid-19 safety measures were implemented in the factory.

Later Renault Nissan Automotive decided to close down the plant for five days — May 26 to May 30- and restart production on May 31.

Meanwhile factories of Hyundai Motor, Ford India and Eicher Motor have restarted their production after a couple of days of closure in the wake of Covid-19 spread.

“The Hyundai Motor car plant has restarted after a couple of days. Even during that period a couple of employees have died due to Covid-19,” Hyundai Motor India Employees Union (HMIEU) President E. Muthukumar told IANS.

Citing the Covid-19 spread, the HMIEU has requested the management to close the factory till June 7, the time when the state lockdown comes to an end.

The HIMIEU has also asked the management to deploy only 50 per cent of the workforce if it considers the operations are necessary on alternate days.

Speaking to IANS an official of the union in Ford India said, the factory has started working and talks are on with the management on our demands like financial compensation for the families of the workers who succumb to Covid-19.

At the Eicher Motors plant near here, workers have started rolling out the Bullet and other high powered two wheelers.

On the maintenance of social distance at the factory level M.Muthukaruppasamy, President, Royal Enfield Thozhilalar Podhunala Sangam told IANS: “A screen has been placed between two work stations.”

Another worker preferring anonymity told IANS that the management has told them that components for three days production is available at the factory and after that decision will be taken.

Eicher Motors workers also told IANS that the management should show some compassion in settling the dues of workers who died of Covid-19 or other reasons.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at–IANS