A week after factory workers at Renault Nissan India decided to boycott work owing to alleged violation of COVID-19 protocols at the company’s plant near Chennai, the Madras High Court has directed the state government to conduct an inquiry.
In a hearing over a plea filed by the Renault Nissan India Workers Union against Renault Nissan Automotive India, the court said that the Tamil Nadu Government would have to inspect the Renault Nissan’s plant at Oragadam, to ensure adherence to safety protocols.
“Senior officials from the Directorate of Industrial Safety should visit the plant to conduct a safety audit,” the court said. “Renault Nissan must also submit a list of the total number of workmen who have tested positive for COVID-19.” The court also said the government should look into conducting talks between management and the union, and said it hoped that safety norms were already in place and that production wouldn’t be compromised.
A week ago, over 3,500 workers belonging to the Renault Nissan India Workers Union called for a strike owing to unsatisfactory working conditions at the automobile plant in Oragadam. The union, in a letter to management, pointed out how cramped canteens, full-strength factory floors and fewer shifts would only worsen the spread of COVID-19 cases within the plant.
The letter also said that workers were not satisfied with the health insurance of Rs 1 lakh per worker, being offered by the company. According to union representatives, nearly 4 factory workers at the plant have died in the second wave of COVID-19.
Responding to calls for a strike, Renault Nissan had announced a suspension of operations at the plant until May 31, as it promised to review safety measures at the plant.
"We are currently reviewing our safety protocols and future safety measures, and continue to have a close and constructive dialogue with union representatives so that together we can ensure the highest standards of safety are in place for when the plant resumes operations," said Renault Nissan India CEO, Biju Balendran in a letter to employees.
With the Tamil Nadu Government now called to intervene in the faceoff between union representatives and management, it remains to be seen when Renault Nissan can resume production, and whether it will go back to rolling products off its lines at the same pace with which it did, pre-closure.
In the last week, Hyundai India and Royal Enfield have also announced suspension to operations at their plants in and around Chennai, amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in Tamil Nadu. Ashok Leyland, in a filing today, said it would keep factories open for only 10 days in June.
(Edited by : Priyanka Deshpande)