Renault-Nissan had earlier shut down its operations after the workers went on a strike, complaining that the company was not prioritising their safety amid the pandemic.

A Nissan showroom in ChennaiFile image
news Workers Right Friday, June 04, 2021 - 22:11

The Madras High Court, on June 4, said that carmaker Renault-Nissan can continue with production at its facility in Chennai. However, the court directed the company to address the issues that the Tamil Nadu government had earlier flagged on the safety of workmen with respect to COVID-19. The automaker had earlier shut down its operations after the workers went on a strike, complaining that the company was not prioritising their safety amid the pandemic. The High Court then directed the state government to inspect the Renault-Nissan plant in Chennai to ensure COVID-19 safety compliance.

On June 4, the first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy gave the go-ahead with a rider to follow pandemic related norms, while passing further interim orders on a writ petition from the labour union of workmen, represented by its president K Balaji Krishnan. The plea, highlighting safety concerns, challenged a May 8 government notification, granting exemption from lockdown curbs and permitting the facility to function after following the pandemic related guidelines. The manufacturing plant is located at nearby Oragadam, which is considered Chennai’s industrial belt.

As directed by the court earlier, senior officials of the Directorate of Industrial Safety visited the factory on June 1 and submitted a report. The bench noted that the report included several additional measures to be taken up by the employer to make the manufacturing facility COVID-19 protocol compliant.

"In the light of the immediate changes brought about at the manufacturing facility at the suggestion of the government officials, it appears that the management has shown sufficient concern for the safety and health of the workmen and that there would be no dropping of the guard as far as safety measures are concerned," the judges observed.

Given the high incidence of infection, the workmen also cannot be immediately faulted for being apprehensive, the court said. In any event, the exemption granted during lockdown by the Revenue and Disaster Management department in the month of May requires the pandemic related protocol to be followed. The issues flagged by the Directorate of Industrial Safety have to be taken care of by the management for the production to continue, the high court said.

It is hoped that the representatives of the workmen and the management forge a more lasting settlement when they meet again on June 7, 2021, the bench said and posted the matter to June 8 for further hearing.

A Nissan spokesperson said the company is committed to complying with court directives. "We carefully resumed operations of the plant earlier this week, after a brief pause due to the challenges posed by the recent increase in COVID19 cases in India, with an even more vigorous and transparent, people-first approach that holds their health and safety paramount to our operations.

Read: Madras HC orders COVID-19 safety inspection of Renault-Nissan plant

“We have already implemented changes in one of the production lines, as per previous agreements regarding employee safety with the union, and will be cascading them across a second production line at the earliest, while also acting on the recommendations of the state government following recent inspections," it said.

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