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Indian court orders COVID-related audit of Renault-Nissan plant By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logos of car manufacturers Nissan and Renault are pictured at a dealership Kyiv, Ukraine June 25, 2020. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo

By Sudarshan Varadhan and Aditi Shah

CHENNAI (Reuters) – An Indian court on Monday ordered officials to inspect coronavirus-related safety protocols at Renault-Nissan’s Tamil Nadu car plant, where workers are on strike over allegations that social distancing rules are not being followed.

Workers at the southern Indian factory, jointly owned by Renault (PA:) and alliance partner Nissan (OTC:) Motor, will not report for duty on Monday over COVID-related safety concerns, a worker union told the company in a letter, extending a halt in production since May 26.

Nissan, which owns a majority stake in the plant, denied the allegations in court, saying it follows all guidelines. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The standoff is a sign of the challenges companies face in resuming operations when new infections in India are rising. Tamil Nadu state is one of the worst affected, with over 30,000 new cases a day.

Hundreds of workers near the auto manufacturing hub of Chennai have fallen ill with COVID-19 and dozens have died, labour unions say.

Renault-Nissan, Ford and Hyundai halted work at their plants last week after workers protested and some went on strike.

Renault-Nissan workers refused to resume work on Monday saying in the letter their demands, including social distancing, rehabilitation of families of deceased workers and medical treatment of those affected by COVID-19, had not been met.

A two-judge bench ordered a senior government official in charge of industrial safety to visit the plant on Tuesday for an inspection, while also asking workers to resume their duties.

The court said this will give workers an opportunity to meet the government official and along with the management they can check safety measures in place.

“Distancing norms have to be maintained without exception, the court said, directing the management and workers to arrive at an amicable solution.

Renault-Nissan said it has reduced production at the plant, its only manufacturing base in India, to 7,129 cars during the 13 working days in May against a target of 18,852 cars. In April, it manufactured 17,207 cars.

“They are disrupting the work which will impact the business and lives of thousands of people including the workmen’s own dependents,” Renault-Nissan said in a filing dated May 31.

The case will next be heard on Friday.

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