The employee union at Renault-Nissan India factory in Tamil Nadu have moved the court with regard to Covid-19 safety protocols being ignored at the factory, legal filings show. The workers at the factory are now tied in a legal tussle with the carmaker, who have petitioned the court to halt operations as social distancing norms are not being followed and company-provided health benefits were outweighed by the risks involved. Renault-Nissan have, however, rejected the claims of the employee union and told the court that they need to continue production at its manufacturing facility in order to meet demand.
In response to this, Renault-Nissan have argued in a court filing - that has not been made public - that there was a "compelling need" to continue with operations in order to fulfill domestic and export demands. Moreover, the carmaker did claim that all Covid-19 safety protocols were indeed being adhered to at the factory. The case will be heard at the Madras High Court on May 24, 2021, i.e. today, when the state government, which is also party to the case, is expected to file its response.
Although the Tamil Nadu Government has imposed a full lockdown until May 31, 2021, across the state, it has allowed some factories, including automobiles, to continue operations. However, a top Tamil Nadu state official told Reuters on Sunday that strict action will be taken against violations of social distancing protocols by any company. This also brings to light the challenges big companies, such as automakers, are facing to keep operations going amid the heightened scare of the pandemic, with employees fearing for their health and safety.
M Moorthy, general secretary of Renault-Nissan India workers union said, "It is a question of life versus livelihood." Representing all 3,500 permanent workers at the factory, he 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." This factory also houses 3,000 more contract workers, 2,500 staff members and 700 apprentices. More concerning is the fact that Tamil Nadu is one of the worst hit states with over 30,000 new cases being recorded each day.
This factory at Oragadam is responsible for manufacturing all Nissan, Renault and Datsun models. 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 met will inevitably lead to losses and penalties. The carmaker also has about 45,000 domestic bookings, primarily for the Nissan Magnite and Renault Kiger. As per the company's petition, it claims it has always prioritized employee safety and "has left no stone unturned" in terms of Covid-19 protocols.