Renault Nissan Automotive India Pvt Ltd on Tuesday said it will temporarily suspend operations at its plant in Tamil Nadu for five days, with effect from Wednesday, in the wake of high COVID-19 infections in the state. The step comes at a time when workers at the factory at Oragadam, about 45 km from Chennai, have demanded work be stopped at the facility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The COVID-19 situation in and around Chennai remains extremely serious. Therefore, to ensure we maintain the focus on the safety of our employees and their families and as a precaution, the decision has been taken to suspend plant operations temporarily from May 26 to May 30," according to an internal letter shared by company managing director and CEO Biju Balendran with employees. "We will continue to closely monitor the situation in Chennai and Tamil Nadu and come back to you shortly with information on when the plant will restart operations", he said.
The company is reviewing the current safety protocols and future safety measures and continues to have a "close and constructive" dialogue with union representatives so that the "highest standards of safety are in place when the plant resumes operations", he said.
"This will include careful consideration of what additional measures we may need to introduce, as well as, an audit on current procedures. You will be informed of any changes in due course. At all times, our focus will remain on the well-being of employees and their families," Balendran said.
With an exponential rise of COVID-19 infections, "we understand the growing concerns you have on the impact of this increase on you and your families", he said.
"Myself and RNAIPL (Renault Nissan Automotive India Pvt Ltd ) management team share your concerns and the health and safety of the staff and business partners is of paramount importance to everyone in the management committee," Balendran said.
On the initiatives taken by the company at the facility, Balendran said RNAIPL has put numerous measures in place to protect its employees since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. "From social distancing protocols in canteens and work transports, vaccination roll out for over 45 years (and above) and ongoing testing programme among others. This includes arranging hospital beds for staff and securing supplies of oxygen for Nissan staff and dependents", he said.
Balendran while extending his gratitude to employees said, "it continues to be a very challenging and concerning time for all".
Earlier in the day, the management and Renault Nissan Thozhilalargal Sangam (Employees Union) held a marathon meeting over the factory operations as the employees feared to attend duty in the wake of the pandemic.
According to the employees, the management during the meeting informed them that besides declaring holiday at the facility, it would distribute 'COVID-19 protection kit' to all the employees, hold vaccination camps for workers, among others.
The factory employs over 5,000 people operating in two shifts and workers are not willing to work in the wake of pandemic, the employees told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
"There is a fear among employees due to the COVID-19 situation as they were facing a risk due to high infections in our state," an employee said.
According to the health department, Tamil Nadu reported 34,285 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, pushing the caseload to 19,11,496 overall while 468 deaths in the last 24 hours mounted the toll to 21,340, till date.