Social Distancing: TN Govt Officials Inspect Auto Plants

By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Chennai, June 13 : If the social distancing norms are to be followed strictly at car plants, then no vehicle can be rolled out.The companies have to consider the workers as frontline warriors, said union officials at different factories.

 Social Distancing: Tn Govt Officials Inspect Auto

Senior officials of Tamil Nadu’s Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health have inspected the car plants of Renault Nissan Automotive India, Ford India, Hyundai Motor India to arrive at the uniform social distancing norms at the shopfloor level.

The Madras High Court had on June 8 ordered the Directorate of Industrial Safety to visit the Renault Nissan Automotive’s factory and also other comparable passenger vehicle makers located near here to arrive at a uniform guideline.

“The officials from the Directorate of Industrial Safety inspected the plant in the evening after 4.30 p.m.when we were not there.We wanted to voice our views to the inspecting team,” M.Moorthy, General Secretary, Renault Nissan India Thozhilalar Sangam (RNITS), told IANS.

According to him, the management is not talking with the union despite the requests and hence the court case.

“No automobile plant can function if the social distancing norms are strictly followed.For instance, when one person loads the wheel another worker near him will tighten the bolts.Similarly, when seats are fixed inside,” a worker in Ford India preferring anonymity told IANS.

“Officials from the Directorate of Industrial Safety had visited the plant but didn’t hold any discussion with the union officials,” a union official in Ford India told IANS.

Similarly, the state government officials had inspected Hyundai Motor India’s mega car plant, a union leader told IANS.

Incidentally the production capacities of all the three plants vary largely.

Hearing the case filed by the RNITS against Renault Nissan Automotive for non-adherence to the Covid-19 safety protocol while operating the plant, the court had issued its order.

Early this month, the company and the worker’s union RNITS had signed an agreement on maintaining social distancing at the shopfloor level.

The two parties had agreed for the empty pitch ratio of 3:1 in the trim and chassis and body shop.

“Simply put, after three cars in the conveyor belt, one slot will be empty so that a worker need not move to the next workstation to complete his work,” RNITS President K.Balaji Krishnan had told IANS.

While Renault Nissan Automotive has two production lines, it initially implemented the 3:1 scheme in line 2 and contended with the workers that it is not applicable to line 1 where models like Sunny, Kicks and Duster are assembled.

After the court categorically said that the management was in breach of the agreement signed with the workers union, the management decided to abide by the agreement.

Moorthy said the production was reduced by only 25 per cent.

However, during the hearing on June 8, the counsel for Renault told the court the company is being singled out as none of the other automotive units — Hyundai Motor, Ford India, BMW, Daimler and others — located near here or in the country like Maruti are maintaining the 3:1 empty pitch.

This resulted in the court ordering the visit of a senior official of the Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health to the automobile plants to come out with a uniform guideline for maintenance of social distance in factories.

Senior officials of other car makers declined to comment on Renault Nissan Automotive’s strategy of linking their operations to their case, which is an indication of their being a bit upset.

“As per our information other car makers are not happy at linking them to the case resulting in inspection of their plants by officials of the Directorate of Industrial Safety,” Moorthy said.

“The inspection may bring out violations of other laws,” he added.

The next hearing of the case will be on June 14.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at [email protected]