Madras High court demands an investigation
On Tuesday, the Madras High Court ordered the Tamil Nadu government to investigate a Renault-Nissan plant on July 3 and see whether social distancing standards are being followed. Last month, the Renault–Nissan workers’ union registered a lawsuit with the Madras High Court, claiming that social distance norms were being broken and that company-provided health benefits were overshadowed by the risk to their life.
The HC’s request for an inquiry comes after a study of Ford, Hyundai, and Renault-Nissan plants by Tamil Nadu state officials last week, who found “challenges in establishing social distancing” due to the nature of assembly-line labour.
A request for comment from Nissan, which owns a majority share in the Renault-Nissan plant near Chennai, was not immediately returned. Before the inspection, next month, a lawyer for Renault-Nissan India informed the court that the firm would obey recommendations issued by officials from the state’s Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health (DISH).
The rules apply to all automobile manufacturers, that is Ford and Hyundai. The court stated that only the Renault-Nissan factory will be inspected because no other automakers’ unions had filed complaints.
Last week, a DISH investigation discovered that three out of four workers at the factories had not been vaccinated, one out of every seven had contracted the virus, and 21 had died. More than 4% of all recent cases in the two areas where the factories are located were caused by workers at the three plants.
Renault-Nissan announced on Tuesday that it will stop using an empty space on the conveyor belt, a step that would help the company enhance production after it was established that it was inefficient at preserving social distance. Renault-Nissan stated in a court file accessed by Reuters, “I respectfully submit that this would be identical to the business operations used in all other similar automobile manufacturers like Hyundai and Ford.”
On June 17, when DISH did the evaluation, production at the Renault-Nissan factory was approximately three-fifths of pre-lockdown levels.
The Renault-Nissan staff has been asking for an empty spot for every car on the conveyor belt, as well as a drop in conveyor belt speed, claiming that this will help maintain social distance. “The lack of sufficient time in some stations allows the unfinished job to be carried over to the next station, resulting in overlapping,” the union stated in its court statement, citing the DISH report.