Amidst the growing Covid crisis in Tamil Nadu, Hyundai Motor India and Renault- Nissan India are facing temporary factory closures in Chennai due to unrest amongst the workforce. While the state government has allowed automakers to continue manufacturing following safety protocols, according to the workers it is understood the OEMs do not meet Covid-related safety norms.
In a statement, Hyundai Motor India said, “Considering the prevailing pandemic situation, Hyundai management has decided to temporarily suspend the plant operations for a period of 5 days, starting tomorrow, 25 May, 2021 until 29 May 2021. However, today (24th May) the plant operations are underway as per schedule. During these difficult times, the company has undertaken several proactive and progressive measures to safeguard the health and ensure wellbeing of the entire workforce.”
It is believed that the decision to go ahead with a five-day production stoppage at the two Sriperumbudur plants came after a number of workers conducted a sit-down protest before resuming operations for the day.
Meanwhile, workers at the Renault-Nissan plant in Tamil Nadu are said to be going on a strike from Wednesday. Renault-Nissan India and the workers at its plant in Tamil Nadu have been engaged in a legal tussle, after the workers petitioned a court to halt operations because social distancing norms were being broken and company-provided health benefits were outweighed by the risk to their lives.
Being one of the worst-impacted states in India, Tamil Nadu is reporting more than 30,000 cases a day for quite some time now. The state, which is an automotive hub, has imposed a lockdown until May 31 but allowed some factories, including automotive plants, to continue operating.
"It is a question of life versus livelihood," M Moorthy, general secretary of Renault Nissan India workers union which represents all 3,500 permanent factory workers, told Reuters. "We just want social distancing protocols to be followed and the management to be responsible for any risks to the workers or their family members." The Renault-Nissan plant also employs 3,000 contract workers, 2,500 staff members and 700 apprentices.
Renault-Nissan's May 16 court filing shows it has pending export orders of about 35,000 vehicles for the May-October period, which if not fulfilled could lead to penalties and loss of business. It also has 45,000 pending domestic bookings for the recently launched Nissan Magnite and Renault Kiger compact SUVs. The company's petition says it has always prioritised employee safety and "has left no stone unturned" to ensure the infection does not spread.