COVID-19 impacts automobile workshops

Workshops are facing a shortage of automobile spare parts and little earnings due to the COVID-19 impact on the economy.

Executive Director of the Automobile Sector Association of Bhutan (ASAB), who also owns an automobile workshop in Olakha, Karma Tenzin, said that the automobile sector earnings have drastically dropped by 75 percent at the moment.

“We use to get around Nu 12,000 for repairing and for rendering other services in a day, but with the current situation, we are able to generate around Nu 3,000 a day,’ he said.

He said that no workers in the automobile workshops have been laid off so far, although a few of them are being partially paid in the capital.

“We can survive on the little savings we have for this month. But after the month, we will have to see as we are paying full payment all the workers. No workshop in the capital has laid off any of their employees. We have made a system where the owners cannot lay off their employees because of the pandemic,” Karma Tenzin said.

ASAB conducted a meeting with its member to ensure that all the current workers are provided with jobs and wages. The association has not received any complaint on employees being laid off so far. ASAB has also approached the government and requested for a monetary support of 50 percent of the salary to the workers from the coming month.

He also added that so far none of the automobile workshop workers have applied for the Druk Gyalpo’s Kidu Relief.

“We went to all the workshops and did a survey and no one has laid off their employees or some are partially paid. However, some of the workers have voluntarily resigned and we have received a few complaints on that.”

He said that the workshop owners are hopeful of rent waivers, as the sector has been hit hard. After a month they will face difficulty in paying workshop rent and workers’ salary.

“The workshops in Olakha are paying around Nu 8,699,578 in total as a monthly rent. So everyone is expecting that if their rent can be waived off, they will be at least able to manage and pay the salary to their workers,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said that the workshops are functioning without the much-needed auto spare parts, and as a result many vehicles are kept stranded at the workshop area.

Most of the auto spare parts are imported from India, which is under a lock down. The closure of borders in Bhutan is also leading to a shortage of materials.

ASAB is also taking an extra initiative to close down all the auto workshops in Olakha at 6 pm since 23 March.

“It’s our responsibility, and we should take precautionary measures so as to contain the spread of the disease. Workshop is a place where different kinds of people come and go, so we don’t want to take risks.”

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