Workers of Hyundai Irungattukottai plant raise safety concerns amidst Covid-19
As speculations of Covid-19 cases persist in Hyundai Motor India’s Irungattukottai plant, workers in Assembly Shop 1 stopped production for an hour yesterday voicing their safety concerns. The workers have also been boycotting lunch for the past 2 days, demanding decontamination of areas and testing to be done for all workers.
Hyundai started operations on May 8th after obtaining permission from District Revenue and Disaster Management authorities to operate with 50% of the workforce. In three weeks, over 90% of the workers had returned to work and currently operations have resumed in 3 shifts with 100% workforce in all shifts. This is in violation of the Tamil Nadu Government’s order to operate 50% capacity, say workers. Only 10% of workforce has not returned. The management has said that for workers who do not return to work, it will be counted as loss of pay.
As far as trainees and apprentices are concerned, the company has housed them in a nearby college with free accommodation for first 14 days. Not all trainees have returned, said a source at the factory. This has increased the pressure on technicians.
For the past one week, there have been concerns raised about 2 individuals, an engineer and another, spouse of a Korean official, having tested positive for Covid-19. Speaking to Thozhilalar Koodam, Comrade Kannan, State Committee Member of CITU, confirmed that there is a concern about 2 people having contracted Covid-19 and this has created fear among workers as the management has not been forthcoming with information about these cases. “All we know is that those concerned have not reported to work for the past few days”, said Comrade Kannan.
United Union of Hyundai Employees Union, recognized by Hyundai management has not been reachable for comment. Hyundai Motors India Employees Union (HMIEU), a union in the plant which has not been recognized by the management, has sent a letter to the Management, pointing to these speculations and has demanded that
- All employees in Hyundai are tested for Covid-19
- The spaces used by those with confirmed cases are decontaminated and those workers and individuals who have been in contact are isolated as per norms.
- Those in containment zones are exempted from coming to work.
Comrade A. Soundararajan, Ex MLA, State President of CITU and Honorary President of HMIEU has also written a letter with similar demands to Disaster Management team.
“Without any information from the management and district administration, there is absolutely no way to understand the true picture, so workers can take proper precaution”, says Comrade Kannan. “There is no inspection by Labour Department or Department of Industrial Safety and Health, to ensure that norms are adhered to”, he added.
In the meantime, Kanchipuram District Collector has called a meeting of all OEM manufacturers on Sunday May 24th on increasing episodes of Covid-19 in factories. This also comes after 40 employees have tested positive in Nokia Solutions Ltd in Oragadam.
Auto Sector is emerging as the next hotspot of Covid-19 spread. So far, cases have been reported in Maruti Suzuki plant in Gurgaon, Hi-lex, auto components manufacturer in Manesar and MRF Puduchery.
Strictly adhering to norms, decontamination of affected areas and periodic inspection to ensure compliance of norms can only be the way to contain the spread of virus. As Kerala has shown, lockdown itself is not enough, aggressive testing, contact tracing and containment is the only way to prevent the spread of the virus.
In contrast, Tamil Nadu Government is choosing to obscure information, especially where workers are concerned. This will expose workers to larger virus load, unchecked spreading and escalating deaths. Workers cannot be kept in the ignorance forever.
The Governments, unions and managements should take workers into confidence; provide timely information and immediate medical attention and undertake practices like isolation and decontamination if they truly wish to have speedy economic recovery.