The Madras High Court on Friday held that carmaker Renault-Nissan can continue with production at its facility near here and at the same time address issues flagged by the state government on the safety of workmen, vis-a-vis COVID-19.
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.
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 a 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 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. 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.”