On 18th October, a chartered bus transporting Renault Nissan (RN) workers, met with an accident enroute from Walajahbad, around 6 Kms from the factory. 12 workers, travelling to there morning shift, were severely injured, one of them remains critical and is undergoing surgery for head injuries at a private hospital. Workers, who are surprised it did not make the news, claim that this is not a rare incident. Speaking anonymously a worker said “over 8 accidents have occurred in the span of 3 months. This is due to the severe strain on the drivers. The drivers are penalized with wage cuts for any delays so they rush during peak traffic hours, they also have very little leave and no place to rest between shifts. All this tires them out” he said.
Ramesh, vice president of United Labour Front, said that while the workers will be provided medical leave and insurance will cover the medical costs, if needed claims under Employee Compensation Act can be raised. He also said that the company is bearing the cost of medical expense for the critically injured worker.
Renault Nissan Worker Suspensions:
In a different development, it was reported that over 15 workers including the president of the un-recognized ULF union at Renualt Nissan (RN) have been suspended pending an internal enquiry. This takes the total number of suspensions to 62 with over hundred show cause notices issued to workers who had associated with ULF, while refusing to join the internal union at Renault Nissan. Four workers have been dismissed, including one person in the past few months.
Over the past two months, workers have been suspended on the grounds of violating the code of conduct and employee standing orders. The president of the ULF branch at RN, has been suspended for allegedly giving an interview with a tamil weekly in which he is alluded to have spoken against the brand image of Renault Nissan. Many others have been suspended for not attending Town Hall meetings organized by the management supported by the union. Workers, who did not want to be quoted, said that the workers did not attend the meeting because they were apprehensive that such participation will be construed as accepting the Renault Nissan India Employees Union (internal union supported by Management) and they decided to exercise their right to stay away.
Mr Ramesh said that they are pursuing these cases. He also mentioned that they are against the appointment of the enquiry officer who had shown blatant disregard for process in an earlier occasion. “We have opposed the appointment of Advocate Singh Paul as the head of the internal enquiry as we felt that he was very prejudiced against the workers. In a previous case they had agreed to replace this person, but once again they have appointed him.” ULF has issued a strike notice demanding that this advocate should not be appointed as the enquiry officer in any future enquiries.
Wage Agreement and Conciliation Talks
Their case for recognition of union and settling a wage agreement is pending before the Assistant Labour Commissioner for Oragadam. It should be noted that nearly half the workers out of approximately 3000 workers, have not accepted the increased wages offered by Renault Nissan this year, demanding instead that the wage agreement be signed between their union and the management rather than between individual workers as the management has sought. Over 400 workers who had received the enhanced wage have deposited the excess in a bank, seeking the management to resolve the issue or to take back the paid wage.
Even as the workers are battling this fresh avalanche of suspensions, the tri-partite conciliation talks is coming to a disappointing conclusion with no clear settlement between the management and ULF. Mr Ramesh said that summons under rule 12(1) has been sent by the ACL for a final round of talks before he files his report. He felt that given the trend of negotiations it was highly likely that the talks will be a failure and the dispute would have to be taken to the labour courts.