TN government allows carmakers to start operations; workers hesitate to go back
Tamil Nadu, one of the hardest-hit states by the Covid-19 second wave, has announced that industries including the automobile plants can keep operating in accordance with the Covid-19 safety measures. This comes after significant companies such as Hyundai and Renault-Nissan were forced to shut down operations as workers feared getting infected.
The state which is seeing more than 30,000 cases per day has extended its near-total lockdown on Friday. The death rates are also seeing a rise. With the announcement to carry on operations, the state government has also directed all the vehicle manufacturers to initiate plans to vaccinate all the employees within a month. Many companies have also initiated drive-in vaccination centres, said a report by Reuters. According to the report, the labour unions said that many workers, in and around Chennai, have lost their lives due to Covid-19.
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Automakers such as Ford Motor Co and Hyundai Motor Co situated near Chennai shut down their production after employees protested over unsafe working conditions. Renault-Nissan too shut their manufacturing plants after workers threatened to boycott work saying that social distancing rules were not being followed. Eicher Motors-owned Royal Enfield shut its three units as well due to safety concerns, said the report.
The labour unions at Hyundai, Ford and Renault-Nissan are in talks with the companies as workers are scared to go back to work after the orders. "We're scared about working. The company is citing government orders and asking us to report for work. The government needs to think about the welfare of workers," a senior union leader at Hyundai said. The automakers are also trying to reach a middle ground with the leaders. “Health and safety of our societies, partners and employees is our topmost priority," said Biju Balendran, managing director at Renault-Nissan India.
The state government has also given a green signal to units with export orders located near Chennai to start operations. Construction and mining equipment maker Caterpillar Inc and Taiwan electronics manufacturer Foxconn have been directed to operate with 50% capacity.
(with inputs from agencies)