Carmakers in India's auto hub allowed to operate at full capacity

New cases in the state have fallen from more than 30,000 a day in May to about 8,000

  
Workers assemble Ford cars at a plant of Ford India in Chengalpattu in the outskirts of southern city of Chennai March 5, 2012.

Workers assemble Ford cars at a plant of Ford India in Chengalpattu in the outskirts of southern city of Chennai March 5, 2012.

REUTERS/Babu

CHENNAI, India- Global carmakers such as Renault-Nissan, Hyundai Motor Co 005380.KS and Ford Motor Co F.N may operate with their full workforces in India's automaking hub from Sunday, despite worker protests over safety in the pandemic.

Tamil Nadu state, one of the country's worst-hit, allowed industrial units with export commitments to operate at 100% capacity, boosting its flourishing automobile industry.

New cases in the state have fallen from more than 30,000 a day in May to about 8,000 but still account for one-seventh of all cases in India, which is second only to the United States in total infections.

"Any company which exports or supplies to export-oriented industries will be allowed to operate at full capacity as cases have come down," a senior state government official said.

An Indian court tasked industrial safety officials this month with visiting carmakers in the southern state to draw up uniform safety guidelines. 

The Madras High Court was responding to a case filed last month by workers at the Indian unit of the French-Japanese alliance of Renault SA Nissan Motor Co.

They asked for operations to be halted, saying social distancing norms were being flouted and the risk to their lives outweighed the health benefits provided by the company.

Labour unions for global carmakers have written letters of protest, arguing that hundreds of workers in the automaking hub of Chennai have fallen ill with COVID-19 and dozens have died.

Ford and Hyundai also halted work at their plants last month after workers protested and some went on strike.

(Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by William Mallard) ((rajendra.jadhav@thomsonreuters.com; +91-22-68414378 ; Reuters Messaging: rajendra.jadhav.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))


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