Swedish union boss: 'Culture clash' behind strikes against Tesla

AFP/The Local
AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Swedish union boss: 'Culture clash' behind strikes against Tesla
Tesla workers striking outside the company's service centre in Malmö. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

A series of strikes against Tesla over its refusal to sign a collective agreement is a clash between the Swedish and American way of 'doing business', a union boss said.


Some 130 mechanics at 10 Tesla repair shops in seven cities across Sweden walked off the job on October 27th, and the strike has since grown into a larger conflict between the US giant and a slew of unions seeking to protect Sweden's labour model.

In addition to the metalworkers union IF Metall, which launched the strike, nine other unions have announced "sympathy measures", including dock workers and postal workers.

Marie Nilsson, head of IF Metall, told AFP that the foundation of the strike is failed negotiations to reach a collective wage agreement.

"We have tried to negotiate with them for a couple of years to reach our collective agreement, but they have declined that," Nilsson said.

Collective agreements with unions are the basis of the Swedish labour market model, covering almost 90 percent of all employees and guaranteeing wages and working conditions.

Nilsson noted in Sweden there is no law regulating minimum wages, as wage levels are negotiated between unions and employers, adding that it's "very important that this functions".

Meanwhile, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has long rejected calls to allow the company's 127,000 employees worldwide to unionise.

"I think this is kind of a clash between the Swedish or the European culture and the American way of doing business," Nilsson said.


IF Metall – which has some 300,000 members – told AFP at the outset of the strike that "many" of Tesla's workers in Sweden are members of IF Metall, but would not disclose an exact number.

Several Swedish media have reported that the impact of the walkout has so far been limited, while IF Metall has accused the electric carmaker of systematically using strike breakers to circumvent the labour action.

On November 20th, Swedish postal workers joined in and began halting deliveries to Tesla offices and repair shops.

As licence plates for new cars are only delivered by mail in Sweden, the blockade would potentially block new Teslas hitting the road, something Musk branded "insane".

On Monday, Tesla filed lawsuits against the Swedish Transport Agency and mail carrier Postnord, which is owned by the Swedish and Danish states, to compel them to hand over licence plates and mail to the carmaker.

The transport agency said late Monday it had received a "provisional" court ruling requiring it to agree, within seven days, to Tesla collecting its number plates directly from the plate manufacturer.


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