After a third worker succumbed to Covid-19 on Saturday, and with a rise in the number of cases, the labour union of Bajaj Auto’s Aurangabad factory has made a fresh appeal to the management to shut the unit for 15 days, according to people familiar with the matter.
The plant, which makes three-wheelers and a few brands of motorcycles, has reported over 140 cases so far.
An official at Bajaj Auto confirmed the death of the third worker, adding that “the person was pursuing treatment with his own doctor”. On whether the management had received a request from the union to shut the plant, the official cited above said, “The union is fully understanding and supportive of continuing work”.
After the first Covid-19 case was reported on June 6, the company said it had taken all necessary measures in accordance with protocols and all such cases had been reported to the authorities. The Waluj plant was shut on Saturday as sanitization was carried out at the facility. Sunday is a weekly off for the unit, said the official.
“Our current incidence of 140 cases of Covid-19 is less than 2 per cent of our strength. Two of our infected employees with underlying conditions of hypertension and diabetes have unfortunately succumbed to the infection,” the company said in a statement on Friday.
A person familiar with the matter said the third casualty was a “permanent worker” and he died “at one of the government hospitals”. The person added that the union had asked the company to shut the factory for 15 days to break this cycle. “The company says one has to live with it as the virus is not going to get contained anytime soon, so how long can one keep the factory shut.”
The union has renewed its appeal in light of the latest death calling for closure of the factory from Monday, he added.
The unit employs around 6,000 workers including permanent and temporary. “The company has been supportive, but the situation is out of control. If one worker gets infected, his whole family gets infected,” he said, adding that around 800-1,000 workers employed at the unit have been admitted in various hospitals.
The nature of the job at the assembly line is such that there is only so much distance one can maintain. In a line, the same part and sub-assembly comes in contact of 60-70 people. So one is bound to get infected, the person said. The actual number of people infected is over 200, he claimed.
Meanwhile, the district administration has begun inspecting manufacturing units in Aurangabad district for compliance of Covid-19-related standard operating procedures.
“We are checking whether all the SOPs are being followed. So far, 13 factories, including that of Bajaj Auto, have been inspected and they have been found to be compliant with norms,” said Rajesh Joshi, regional officer of Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation.
Swab tests are being carried out of relatives and factory colleagues of Covid-19 patients. “We have deployed a team of doctors to test Bajaj employees residing in the city,” said Aurangabad Municipal Commissioner Astik Kumar Pandey.