Indian court orders state to set uniform COVID-19 rules for carmakers

The logos of automakers Nissan and Renault are pictured in a dealership in Kiev, Ukraine, on June 25, 2020. REUTERS / Valentyn Ogirenko / File Photo

An Indian court on Tuesday hired occupational safety officials to visit automakers in southern Tamil Nadu state to develop uniform safety guidelines for workers during a second devastating wave of COVID-19 infections amid the pandemic.

Workers at the Indian Renault-Nissan unit had petitioned the Madras High Court to shut down operations, stating that social distancing standards were being violated and the risk to their lives outweighed the company’s health benefits.

“Senior officials from the Ministry of Occupational Safety and Health may be asked to make further visits to the Nissan-Renault manufacturing facility and … other automobile manufacturing units … so that uniform guidelines can be imposed,” the court said.

In a court file reviewed by Reuters on Monday, the company said it wanted the state government to recommend appropriate social distancing measures based on the practices of other automakers in the dispute with the union over safety.

The company added that while it followed the practices of automakers such as Maruti, Hyundai, Kia, Ford and BMW, it was “impossible” to increase the distance between workers beyond 0.6-0.9 meters in some workplaces enlarge.

The workers’ union will file a counter-petition, said their general secretary M. Moorthy.

“Other manufacturers need to adopt the best practices we are pushing for, not the other way around,” he told Reuters.

“We feel insecure and that’s why we are against what the company is doing.”

The plant resumed operations last week after a strike by workers who said they felt unsafe because of an increasing number of viral infections at the plant. Continue reading

Tamil Nadu, home to a thriving auto industry, is one of the Indian states hardest hit by the pandemic.

Unions for Renault-Nissan, Ford Motor Co (FN) and Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS) have written letters of protest arguing that hundreds of workers at the Chennai Auto Center contracted COVID-19 and dozens have died.

Ford and Hyundai also ceased operations at their plants last month after workers protested and some went on strike. Continue reading

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