The workmen-management tussle at the Renault-Nissan Chennai plant, which was dragged to Madras High Court, over the lack of social distance protocol during the Covid pandemic, has ended with the union agreeing to the findings in the inspection report of the Tamil Nadu Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health. The directorate has reported back to the court that the company has complied with the uniform guidelines for maintenance of social distance. According to the report, the social distancing in the two assembly lines were achieved by scrapping the four and three worker workstations and increasing the number of two and one worker workstations, and introduction of pre-assemblies.
Ordering the closure of the writ petition, the division bench comprising chief justice justice Sanjib Banerjee and justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said: “Since the petitioning union and the workmen do not have any further grievance at the moment pertaining to the measures taken at the manufacturing facility of the second respondent, the matter appears to have run its course.”
The report said in both the assembly lines, pull chords were provided for the workers to stop the conveyor to complete the work. As per the inspection report, workers are using the pull chord to avoid overcrowdedness and overlapping in workstations. In the second assembly line, 10 working stations were newly created to avoid more than two workers per station. Taking note of the union’s agreement to the report findings, the court has ordered the closure of the case.
The Madras high court had on June 22 ordered the management of Renault-Nissan to strictly enforce the uniform guidelines on social distancing framed by the directorate of industrial safety & health of Tamil Nadu, at its Chennai plant by July 3, while asking the team from the directorate to inspect the factory the same day, to check whether the safety norms have been put in place.
The bench had further directed that the guidelines recommended by the directorate should be followed by all the passenger car manufacturing factories till the lockdown was in place and the conditions imposed by the state were not relaxed. The court observed that the principal dispute appears to be between the management at Renault-Nissan and its union. The unions pertaining to the other automobile companies have not come up with any grievance.
In the course of hearing, directions were issued for personnel from the directorate of industrial safety to visit the automobile manufacturing units on the outskirts of the city and to ensure that uniform guidelines were imposed. Hyundai Motor India Ltd was represented and said its workmen have no grievance regarding the steps taken by the management. Hyundai has also said that it has no difficulty in complying with the guidelines recommended by the director of industrial safety and health.
The directorate industrial safety & health of Tamil Nadu had on June 21 had submitted its report to the Madras high court on uniform technical guidelines to enhance the practice of social distancing in the assembly lines of the passenger car manufacturing factories, recommending slowing down of conveyor speed, relocation of jobs to different stations and suitable fencing inside the car units so as to avoid close contact between the workers, among others, in the wake of current pandemic situation.
The directorate was asked by the high court to inspect all other car companies in Tamil Nadu and suggest uniform social distancing norms for automobile makers, in the course of hearing of the case filed by Renualt-Nissan workers’ union against the management on the issue of lack of Covid-related social distancing norms, while conducting operations in the lock-down period.
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