Hyundai Motor have been forced to shut down its Chennai plant for five days, starting today, amid rising cases of Covid-19 infections and concerns among its workforce. The Korean carmaker issued a statement and said that it has decided to suspend production at the plant amid the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and strict lockdown-like restrictions imposed by the Tamil Nadu government.
Last week, the state government had decided to extend the lockdown in Tamil Nadu, a state known as the Detroit of India for its auto manufacturing hubs, for one more week till May 31. The state had, however, allowed some of the industries, including the auto sector, to continue work amid the lockdown. Tamil Nadu is one of the worst-affected states in India with more than 30,000 cases every day.
The statement issued by Hyundai Motor India Limited (HMIL) read, “Considering the prevailing situation in Tamil Nadu, Hyundai management has decided to temporarily suspend the plant operations for a period of 5 days, starting tomorrow, May 25, 2021 until May 29, 2021.”
The decision has come at a time when the Korean carmaker is planning to launch its first three-row SUV Alcazar in India next month. The strike may impact production of the new 7-seater SUV.
Hyundai said the decision was taken as a precautionary measure to ensure safety of its employees. “During the ongoing second wave of Covid-19 pandemic, the company has undertaken several proactive and progressive measures to empower, enable and support the workforce,” read Hyundai’s statement.
What Hyundai did not specify was that the move came after it faced resentment from the workers who are concerned about rising number of Covid-19 cases. E Muthukumar, president of the Hyundai Motor India Employees Union, was quoted by news agency Reuters saying, “The management agreed to close the plant after workers expressed concerns over safety after two employees succumbed to Covid.”
Hyundai’s decision has come at a time when other carmakers too are facing similar resentment from its workforce over fear of rising cases of Covid-19 infection. At the Renault and Nissan’s facility in Chennai, workers are threatening to go on strike if the carmakers do not announce a shutdown soon. They have alleged that social distancing norms are not being followed at the facility. They are also not happy with the kind of medical cover they are provided in case of health emergency.