Indian court orders COVID audit of Renault-Nissan plant

An Indian court on Monday ordered authorities to inspect coronavirus-related safety protocols at the Renault-Nissan auto plant in Tamil Nadu, where workers are on strike over allegations that social distancing rules are not being followed .

Workers at the South Indian plant, jointly owned by Renault (RENA.PA) and its alliance partner Nissan Motor (7201.T), did not show up on Monday over COVID-related safety concerns , said the workers union.

Nissan, which owns a majority stake in the plant, has denied workers’ claims of failing to adhere to safety protocols and told an Indian court it is following all guidelines. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Renault-Nissan plant has been closed since Wednesday.

The stalemate is a sign of the challenges businesses face in getting back to business when new infections in India increase. The state of Tamil Nadu is one of the most affected, with more than 30,000 new cases per day.

Hundreds of workers near the Chennai auto manufacturing center have fallen ill with COVID-19 and dozens have died, unions say.

Renault-Nissan, Ford (FN) and Hyundai (005380.KS) halted work at their factories last week after workers protested and some went on strike. Read more

Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS) has suspended one of its three shifts at a factory near Chennai for three weeks due to the coronavirus, according to an internal employee memo reviewed by Reuters and two sources familiar with the matter.

A spokesperson confirmed that Hyundai will operate in two shifts from Monday, adding that it is “closely monitoring the pandemic situation in the state” and adhering to safety guidelines.

Renault-Nissan workers refused to return to work on Monday, saying in a letter to companies that their demands, including social distancing, rehabilitation of the families of deceased workers and medical treatment of those affected by COVID-19, do not had not been satisfied.

COVID-19 PROTOCOLS

A bench of two judges ordered a senior government official responsible for industrial security to visit the factory on Tuesday for an inspection, while asking workers to resume their duties.

Distancing standards must be maintained without exception, the court said, ordering management and workers to come to an amicable solution.

The state government of Tamil Nadu on Saturday allowed automakers near Chennai to continue operating, but asked them to ensure compliance with social distancing protocols.

One of the judges noted that a factory inspected by the state’s industrial security departments had received a notice asking to “show the cause” of the alleged discrepancies with standard operating procedures.

A report by the Office of the Director of Industrial Security on engineering Wipro infrastructure, reviewed by Reuters, noted that social distancing has not been fully respected.

The report also said that disinfection facilities were not available in many places in the factory and that there were no full-time doctors.

Reuters could not reach Wipro Infrastructure for comment.

Renault-Nissan said it had cut production at the Tamil Nadu plant, its only manufacturing base in India, to 7,129 cars in the 13 working days in May from a target of 18,852 cars. In April, it manufactured 17,207 cars.

“They disrupt work, which will impact the business and lives of thousands of people, including the workers’ own dependents,” Renault-Nissan said in a May 31 filing.

The case will be heard next Friday.

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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