The Madras High Court on Friday asked Renault Nissan Automotive India to implement in full the agreement reached with the workers’ union to maintain a Covid-19 safety protocols at its Chennai plant. The company and the union, Renault Nissan India Thozhilalar Sangam (RNITS), signed an agreement earlier this month regarding measures to maintain social distancing at the shopfloor level, which include maintaining the empty pitch ratio at 3:1 — after three cars are rolled out continuously on the conveyor belt, one slot will be kept empty. RNITS sources told FE that though the 3:1 pitch ratio was implemented on one of its product lines, it was not introduced on the second line, which the union brought to the court’s notice.
The agreement was signed after the HC, on May 31, asked officials related to industrial safety to inspect whether the Renault Nissan Chennai factory had Covid-19 safety protocols in place. The court had also asked the company management and union to discuss the issue and report on the resolution when the court took up the matter on Friday. A Nissan spokesperson told FE, “We have already implemented changes on one of the production lines as per previous agreements regarding employee safety with the union, and will be cascading them across a second production line at the earliest, while also acting on the recommendations of the state government following recent inspections. We value the collaboration with the safety experts, doctors, workers and RNITS in enhancing the Covid safety protocol at the plant.”
The court had also told the company to submit the number of workers infected by the coronavirus, while asking the workers to resume work from Tuesday. “We appreciate the court’s recognition of our efforts to enhance employee safety, and are committed to complying with its directives. We carefully resumed operations of the plant earlier this week, after a brief pause due to the challenges posed by the recent increase in Covid-19 cases in India, with an even more vigorous and transparent people-first approach that holds their health and safety paramount to our operations, ” the Nissan spokesperson said.
Due to the workers’ unrest, the company had halted operations at the plant for five days starting May 26. On May 31, operations were partially affected as a section of employees did not report to work citing lack of safety protocols. The union took the company to court, alleging that it was misusing the provisions which allowed continuous running industries to operate during lockdown, and said the company was operating without the required safety protocols.
The spokesperson said, “Since the outbreak of the pandemic, [Renault Nissan Automotive India] has taken a host of measures towards employee well-being, in addition to strictly observing all safety protocols from national and state government. We will continue to closely and strictly monitor developments and take robust and timely action.”
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