Tesla, the global electric vehicle giant, is currently grappling with escalating strike actions in Sweden as the company refuses to accept a collective labour agreement. The labour unrest has been sparked by IF Metall, a prominent Swedish trade union, which announced a walkout last week, citing a prolonged failure to negotiate a collective agreement with Tesla as the primary cause.
In a statement published on their website, IF Metall expressed their frustration, asserting that their objective is to ensure that “our members at Tesla have the same decent and safe working conditions as the members at other similar companies in Sweden.” Approximately 90% of Sweden’s workforce operates under collective agreements, which enable the negotiation of labour conditions and wages between unions and companies. IF Metall is striving to establish a solid foundation for salaries and benefits for approximately 120 employees at Tesla service facilities in Sweden.
It’s worth noting that not all Tesla employees in Sweden are actively participating in the strikes. The situation has escalated as Swedish dockworkers have declared their support for the labour action and vowed to block all incoming Tesla deliveries at the country’s major ports.
While the dockworkers are not directly employed by Tesla, they hold significant sway as they control the four primary ports through which Tesla electric vehicles enter Sweden. According to reports from The New York Times, representatives from Tesla have agreed to meet with the union on Monday, indicating a potential willingness to engage in discussions to resolve the labour dispute.
Sweden represents one of Tesla’s smaller markets. Still, the company’s electric vehicles have seen a surge in popularity, making them the most sought-after brand in the country this year, as per eu-evs.com.
However, Tesla’s founder and CEO, Elon Musk, has been steadfast in his resistance to calls for unionization among his staff. In a tweet from 2018, Musk stated that Tesla employees could risk losing their stock options if they chose to unionize. This tweet was later deemed to have violated labour laws by a U.S. judge.
“Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is 2X better than when plant was UAW & everybody already gets healthcare,” Musk tweeted in May 2018.
However, Musk is now confronting stricter labour laws and more robust employee rights in Europe than he is accustomed to in the United States. This week, Christiane Benner, the first female head of the IG Metall union, cautioned Musk not to obstruct efforts to unionize at Tesla’s gigabyte factory in Berlin. The factory has experienced an unusually high number of work-related accidents, and IG Metall reports a significant surge in union signups among Tesla workers.
“You need to be careful. The rules of the game are different here,” Benner emphasized, according to Bloomberg.
While the labour strike in Sweden may currently affect only a fraction of Tesla’s workforce, it symbolizes a significant challenge to Elon Musk’s aversion to unions, especially as the United Auto Workers union is intensifying its efforts to organize Tesla employees in the United States.
As of the time of reporting, Tesla had yet to provide a response. The labour dispute in Sweden continues to raise questions about the future of labour relations within Tesla and the impact it may have on the company’s global operations.