Renault-Nissan will halt operations at its factory near Chennai for five days starting May 26, K Balaji Krishnan, president, Renault-Nissan (India) Thozilalar Sangam (RNTS) told FE. After a meeting with the workers’ union on Tuesday, the management has decided to give workmen leave, Krishnan said. Renault has sought to contend in the court that appropriate measures have been put in place with three shifts reduced to two. It has said all safety arrangements have been made for workers, including their transportation and vaccination for those eligible to be vaccinated.
The union has, however, complained that the company is seeking to take advantage of the exemption granted by the state government without paring production to the levels needed to service the export commitments. Currently, 185 workers have been infected with Covid-19, the union said in its affidavit to the Madras High Court, alleging that no social distancing norms were being followed while transporting the staff and at the dining halls numbering eight with a capacity of 500 each.
The union has complained there was no supervision at the factory by any government official, either from the Directorate of Industrial Safety or the appropriate authorities under the Factories Act. The union has filed a case in the Madras High Court against the Tamil Nadu government and Renault Nissan Automotive, challenging the state government’s classifying the units as continuous process industries. Krishnan told FE that the union had written to the management forewarning that they would boycott the work from Wednesday if the company does not halt the operations at the plant.
The Madras High court, in an order of May 24, 2021, opined there appears to be some tension between employer Renault Nissan and its employees, including a veiled threat of the workers desisting from attending the manufacturing unit if their concerns were not taken care of.
“It is imperative that some kind of supervision be maintained by the state through the appropriate officers so that the workmen at Renault are not forced to work in conditions that may put their health in danger. The employer should also indicate if the level of production has been reduced, particularly since the conversion of three shifts to two may be meaningless if the overall number of workmen continues to be the same. It will be open to the employer to furnish the further details by way of a supplementary affidavit be filed before the matter is taken up next,” the bench observed.
The union in its prayer said that it was aggrieved by the Tamil Nadu government order permitting automobile manufacturing units that have large foundries to function when the state has been brought under full lockdown. The Renault-Nissan factory at Orgadam makes vehicles for both domestic and export markets and employs around 3,500 permanent workers, all of whom are members of the union. Besides, there are 2,500 staff members and 3,000 contract labourers and 700 apprentices.
The union further pointed out the workers have not been covered by the employee state insurance scheme. The management has given employees given a Rs 1 lakh cover for Covid-19 treatment. There was a separate Rs 2 lakh health insurance policy for all diseases, it added.
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