The Swedes have brought Tesla to a standstill. Billionaire Elon Musk’s company refuses to negotiate with the Swedish union over wages and working conditions. As a result, 120 Tesla mechanics went on strike. Workers in transportation, postal services, cleaning, and other industries quickly joined the strike. Now, the strike could potentially spread to other European countries.
Elon Musk is far from a friend of labor unions. The billionaire and CEO of Tesla and X (formerly Twitter) have been cracking down on worker organizing in his companies worldwide. Union members at Elon Musk’s companies are fired, and their activities are spied upon.
This anti-union policy is now being pursued by the billionaire in Sweden as well. However, Swedish unions are not backing down. What started as a conflict between Tesla management and 120 Swedish workers has now paralyzed the company. The likelihood of the conflict expanding to other European countries is increasing.
Musk is against collective bargaining agreements
In Sweden, as in most European countries, wages and working conditions are regulated by collective bargaining agreements. Unions negotiate a contract with management that applies to all employees.
Musk and Tesla, however, do not support such collective bargaining negotiations. Those who want to work at Tesla must negotiate wages and working conditions individually with management. The result for most Tesla employees is that they earn less than their counterparts in other companies in the industry.
Tesla is in constant conflict with labor unions. However, the electric car company is likely to face a tough challenge from Sweden’s labor unions. Foto (unsplash)
This is also the case in Sweden. There, 120 mechanics in Tesla’s Swedish subsidiary are said to earn less than the industry average and have worse pension and insurance conditions. For years, the Swedish Metalworkers’ Union has been trying to convince Tesla to sign a collective bargaining agreement to address this issue. However, the company has not budged, leading the 120 Tesla mechanics to go on strike.
Post, transportation, suppliers – no one wants to work for Tesla anymore
The 120 mechanics, however, were not alone for long. Dockworkers supported the Tesla workers and blocked the import of new Tesla vehicles through the country’s ports. Workers at a Tesla supplier, Hydro Extrusions, which manufactures aluminum components for Tesla, are also now supporting the strike. Production has come to a halt until Tesla meets the demands of its workers.
Taxi drivers, cleaning staff, and painters have also joined the strike. Stockholm’s largest taxi company no longer buys Teslas for its fleet, cleaning staff refuse to clean Tesla buildings, and painters refuse to repaint Teslas.
Cleaning staff, in solidarity with the striking Tesla mechanics, refuse to clean Tesla’s buildings.
However, Tesla is particularly affected by the actions of the state-owned postal company, Post Nord. In Sweden, vehicle license plates are only sent from a central location: Post Nord. Post employees are now refusing to send license plates for Tesla. You can still buy a new Tesla in Sweden, but you can’t drive it. Tesla is now seeking a court ruling to have license plates delivered for their cars.
Musk calls strike “insane”
Elon Musk and Tesla have remained silent on the strikes in Sweden so far. However, when postal workers joined the strike, he commented on X (formerly Twitter): “This is insane.”
This is insane
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 23, 2023
Tesla is reportedly planning to fly in workers from other countries to undermine the strike. The head of the Metalworkers’ Union, Marie Nilsson, commented on this, saying, “We haven’t seen anything like this in Sweden since 1937 or so.” The following year, 1938, is considered the beginning of the Swedish social partnership.
The unions won’t back down, according to the head of the Swedish Trade Union Confederation, Susanna Gideonsson:
“It will end with the employees getting a collective agreement in one way or another.” When asked what would happen if Tesla doesn’t sign a collective agreement, she replied: “Then Tesla can leave the country.”
First Sweden, then Europe?
The strike in Sweden could end disastrously for Tesla. Unions in Norway have already announced their intent to prevent Teslas from entering Norwegian ports and being transported to Sweden by land. The strike could also spread to Denmark. Post Nord, the state-owned postal company that does not send Tesla license plates in Sweden, operates in the neighboring country as well.
However, the biggest threat to Tesla lies in Germany. In 2022, the company opened a large factory with around 11,000 employees (according to Tesla) there. This factory produces the majority of Teslas for the European market. Similar to Sweden, Tesla is refusing to negotiate with unions in Germany over wages and working conditions.
The factory in Germany reportedly has a high number of workplace accidents. Employees also criticize significant work pressure and the lack of safety and health precautions.
Elon Musk is facing increasing pressure
The Tesla CEO is already under significant financial pressure. His acquisition of Twitter (now X) did not go as planned. The social media platform has lost thousands of users in recent months and has been plagued by negative press, including massive layoffs. Musk largely financed the purchase of Twitter with Tesla shares.
However, things are not going well for Tesla either. The production of the new Cybertruck model is facing significant challenges. Thousands have already pre-ordered the Tesla pickup truck, but due to rising raw material prices and planning issues, Tesla seems unable to fulfill the orders.
“With the Cybertruck model, we’ve dug our own grave,” Elon Musk told investors.
There are also problems with existing models. Tesla had to recall 55,000 cars just last month. In addition, Tesla is being investigated for fraud. Tesla is accused of misleading customers and potential buyers about the ability to use the autonomous driving mode.
If the strike in Sweden spreads to other European countries, it will further increase the political and financial pressure on Tesla and Elon Musk. Läs mer…