High Court orders Tamil Nadu govt to set uniform Covid-19 norms for all carmakers

Renault-Nissan management feels singled out as it is the only car manufacturer that follows the 3:1 protocol at their Chennai plant. While the arrangement allows for adequate social distancing, it has resulted in reduced production at the plant.

By:June 9, 2021 7:44 AM
It may be true the lockdown rules exempt manufacturers from shutting down their operations, but they probably need to pare operations significantly, purely on humanitarian grounds.

The Madras High Court on Tuesday directed the Tamil Nadu government’s directorate of industrial safety (DIS) to depute an official team to draw up a uniform set of production guidelines for all manufacturers in the state to follow.

The court noted that reasons would need to be assigned if there was any departure from the uniform guidelines prescribed by the official team. The court also observed that till the uniform guidelines are formulated, the current arrangement at Renault-Nissan plant needs to be followed and that the company management cannot tweak them.

The next hearing for the dispute between the management at Renault-Nissan and the workers has been fixed for June 14.

The current arrangement at the Renault-Nissan factory is of 3:1 — three cars on a conveyer belt to be handled by one worker so that sufficient social distancing can be maintained at the plant. The court said that since the current arrangement of 3:1 was arrived after discussions between the workmen and the management, in the presence of officials of the DIS, it cannot be changed at the unilateral insistence of the management and without reference to the safety and concerns of the workmen.

The court noted that the current arrangement is a temporary one which satisfies the workmen and allows for production. However, it acknowledged that as a result of the new arrangement, the quantum of production may have fallen slightly. The management, however, feels that it has been singled out and that the 3:1 norm has not been applied to other automobile manufacturers in the state.

On the other hand, the workmen maintain that the 3:1 gap provides additional time to the workmen to complete the work on the previous three vehicles on the line. This means two workmen do not need to come close to each other and work simultaneously in violation of the social distancing norms required to be maintained. They also maintain that in a lockdown situation, where only essential production is permitted, it is unreasonable for the management to continue production at the same rate by citing export orders.

A Nissan spokesperson, in an e-mailed response, told FE: “We are committed to complying with the directives of the Madras High Court, working with the government stakeholders and coordinating with the union to reach an amicable and mutually-agreeable resolution for all. As in the past, we will cooperate with inspections by relevant authorities and stakeholders, and comply with recommendations by the state government based on industry best practices.”

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