Bajaj Auto Workers Continue To Test Positive; Union Urges For Shut Down

Workers’ Union at Bajaj Auto’s Aurangabad plant has asked the company’s management to consider the decision of shutting the plant, people in the know told ETAuto. 

The two and three-wheeler maker on Friday said that 140 employees had tested positive for the coronavirus, while two others had succumbed to the contagion at the Waluj facility in Aurangabad. 

The Workers’ Union fear the spread of the contagion because the labour is required to work in the factories at close proximity. “Even while continuously maintaining a distance, we are bound to touch similar surfaces at frequent intervals,” said one of the workers.

Thengade Bajirao, President, Workers’ Union, Bajaj Auto informed, “We received the information from the management on Sunday afternoon that the workers at Waluj district will have to stay at home on Monday, and come back on Tuesday to get tested for Covid.”

However, witnessing an addition in the positive cases since Friday, another official of the Workers’ Union added on condition of anonymity, “We do not have an update of what happens post Tuesday. It is a risky situation. One of the workers who tested positive on Sunday has now passed on the virus to his younger daughter at home. We have urged the management to consider shutting the plant for the next two weeks for everyone’s safety, but it seems highly unlikely.”

On Friday, the company issued a statement, “We have more than 8,100 employees and contractors in our Waluj plant. Our current incidence of 140 cases of Covid is less than 2 percent of our strength. The two deceased had underlying conditions of hypertension and diabetes. Operations continue normally with all necessary safety measures.”

Gaikwad Sampad, General Secretary, Workers Union, Bajaj Auto said, “While Sunday is a weekly off for the facility, Saturday witnessed a shut down due to sanitation being carried out in the premises.” 

On Saturday, the three-wheeler factory was sanitised, while the motorcycle factory continued to operate.

Meanwhile, Rajiv Bajaj, Managing Director, Bajaj Auto told ET Newspaper in an interview that companies cannot survive by stopping operations and paying salaries to people sitting at home. "So if you want to be absolutely safe and you want to sit at home till the vaccine comes, you are welcome to sit at home. But please understand that if we sit at home for one to two years, there is no company in the world which can continue to pay your wages. We will have to implement no work no pay," he said.

He further added that the company has had an open communication with its people in Aurangabad. "Every life is precious, but you tell us what is the solution?," he noted.

Additionally, reports also suggest that the gram panchayat (GP) of Waluj village has passed a resolution to discourage its residents from going to work at the MIDC Waluj industrial area, post the increase in the number of Covid cases amongst workers from Bajaj Auto plant. 

Industries in the neighbouring area depend highly on the workforce from the Waluj district, as the larger population of the village directly or indirectly depends on these industries. 

The current scenario arises when the two wheeler market has begun showing quick signs of revival and the demand for bikes has rebounded as customers prefer safer and personalised transport with the absence of public transport in major parts of the country due to pandemic. 

Companies like Bajaj Auto, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) and market leader Hero MotoCorp are doing brisk sales as retails are expected to come close to normal levels in the month of June over last year.