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COVID-19 Response Leaves Team ‘More Cohesive Than Ever’

The Budapest Business Journal spoke with Zsuzsanna Bonnár-Csonka, Corporate Communication Leader at Magyar Suzuki Corporation, about the Japanese subsidiary’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its gradual resumption of work.

BBJ: When and how did you begin to start production again?

Zsuzsanna Bonnár-Csonka: Production in Esztergom restarted gradually on April 29. We introduced more complex healthcare and safety measures than ever before to protect our employees. We reorganized our processes to ensure proper distance and hygiene suiting the specific health situation.

Admission to the factory is subject to strict rules. Workers can enter the factory area on a painted, designated route, 1.5 meters apart. We have also set up extra entry points. We keep the recommended distance of 1.5 meters during work as well. It is obligatory to wear a mask, we provide rubber gloves on request.

In production, workstations were disassembled, separators were installed in between, and all workers use face shields. We increased the number of bus services to ensure the appropriate distance between employees during the trip. In addition to the usual points, we introduced antibacterial hand disinfection in many other places. The canteen and buffet are closed, but, we provide pre-packaged cold meals to staff at our own expense. We provide continuous disinfection on our sites, both in the factories and in the offices. Our previously introduced restrictions, such as bans on business trips and the entry of partners and visitors remained effective.

BBJ: How many staff are now back working at the factory?

ZsB-Cs: Some 1,100 colleagues have started working in one shift in our production halls. Our employees working in the main office can choose between remote work and office work in the first stage of resuming on rotation basis as part of the gradual restart of production.

BBJ: Do you think you might continue with home office for those staff that want it in the long-term?

ZsB-Cs: Given the nature of our company’s function, manufacturing, general home office is not an option in the long run.

Our office colleagues work in close cooperation with the factory in order to support production. However, due to the coronavirus situation, our previous rules on urging home office is still effective.

BBJ: Have you had to furlough staff or make any redundant?

ZsB-Cs: It was very important for Magyar Suzuki to keep all our employees directly employed providing continuous payment of wages during the closure. All our staff members could choose from reorganization of working time, home office, and paid holiday during the downtime period.

However, due to the coronavirus situation, we suspended the services of our labor hires partners. We are counting on members of our contracted workforce as soon as production restarts at its usual pace. We will strive to transfer hundreds of our previously hired workforce into our company’s own employment.

BBJ: How long do you think it will be before you are back at full production?

ZsB-Cs: We are constantly monitoring the market needs and trends, the Hungarian and European COVID-19 situation, consulting with our suppliers and shaping our production plan.

BBJ: Besides looking after your staff (which is very important), have you been supporting the wider community in any ways?

ZsB-Cs: We owe gratitude to all who take care of patients in this extraordinary situation, day by day. We feel obliged to help their essential work. So, Magyar Suzuki donated 200 face masks with FFP1 certification to the Vaszary Kolos Hospital in Esztergom. We also offered eight vehicles to doctors and nurses at Esztergom hospital, who will be able to commute in an easier, safer way. We supported Szent Borbála Hospital in Tatabánya as well, giving about 20 liters of hand sanitizer to the institute.

BBJ: What are you most proud of about Magyar Suzuki’s response to the crisis?

ZsB-Cs: The key to our successful response to the crisis is our team. The fact that we could react and work together as one team, re-scheduling our operations, successfully implementing all measures throughout the whole production chain, shows that our team is more cohesive than ever. It was equally important to us to help our greater community in the successful fight against the virus supporting regional health institutions.