With Maharashtra recording the highest number of confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in India, Tata Motors is preparing for one-week complete shutdown of its Pune plant.
Tata Motors is the biggest automotive sector employer in Maharashtra with two manufacturing plants, a research centre and multiple offices in Mumbai and Pune.
If it goes ahead with its shutdown from the indicated March 24 date, Tata Motors will become the first Indian automotive company to declare a lock down of manufacturing operations due to the pandemic. Several automotive companies such as Volkswagen and BMW have already shut their Europe plants.
In a letter to the employees, managing director, Guenter Butschek said, "We have been monitoring the situation closely and all data seems to point out that Maharashtra has been the most impacted."
"In the interest of safety of our employees in the state, we have decided to rapidly scale down activities at Pune site to get to skeletal operations by March 23-end (Monday) and be ready for a plant closure by March 24-end (Tuesday) as the situation warrants. We shall remain in this mode till March 31 and review it in due course," it said.
At the time of publishing the article Maharashtra reported 52 COVID-19 cases with Pune and Pimpri and Chinchwad showing the highest count. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray-led government has announced near lock down of the state with all non-essential establishments ordered to remain shut till March 31.
On March 20, CM Thackeray announced a further reduction in workforce to 25 percent in all government office from the earlier 50 percent and a complete shutdown for all private offices till the end of the month.
Early on March 20, Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran declared that the Tata Group companies will ensure full payment to temporary workers and daily wage earners for March and April even if they are unable to come to work due to quarantine measures or site closures.
A plant closure by Tata Motors will also hit the businesses of its suppliers which are mostly based in Maharashtra as well. The company manufactures hatchbacks, SUVs, trucks, mini trucks, vans, pickups and vehicle engines from the Pune plant. The company also said it is closely watching the developments in other states where it has plants.
"We shall continue to closely monitor the situation in all states where our offices and plants are located and make appropriate and proactive decisions should the need arise," added Butschek.