Unions in Sweden Expand Blockade Against Tesla

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Electricians and dockworkers across Sweden on Friday joined a widening effort by unions in the country to pressure Tesla to sign a collective bargaining agreement with its mechanics.

The expansion of the labor actions comes three weeks after the automotive workers’ union, IF Metall, called a strike against the electric vehicle maker in an effort to secure a collective arrangement over pay and working conditions for the roughly 120 members it has who work as mechanics for the company. In the latest move, dockworkers at dozens of ports refused to unload cars from ships and electricians stopped repair work at the company’s charging stations, highlighting the power of organized labor in a country where collective agreements cover nine in 10 of all employees.

Port workers blocking a ship from loading Tesla vehicles onto a ship moored at the port of Malmo in Sweden, in early November.Credit…Johan Nilsson/TT News Agency, via Associated Press

Tesla in Sweden: No production but many sales.

Tesla does not produce any vehicles in Sweden, but runs several facilities where the cars are serviced. So far this year, the Tesla Model Y is the best-selling new car in Sweden, with more than 14,000 registrations through October, according to Mobility Sweden, an industry group.

At the outset of the mechanics’ strike, a Tesla representative told Swedish media that the company followed labor laws in the country, and that it chose not to sign a collective agreement. The company said it would do what it could to keep its business operating.

Quotable: ‘It is both important and obvious that we help.’

The Swedish Transport Workers’ Union, whose members work at Sweden’s docks, said in a statement that “it is both important and obvious that we help, to stand up for the collective agreement and the Swedish labor market model.”

How It Started: Mechanics at Tesla went on strike on Oct. 27.

In late October, IF Metall, which represents 300,000 workers, including some of Tesla’s mechanics, in Sweden, said that talks with company representatives had ended without resolution. The union began the strike action at Tesla’s 12 service centers on Oct. 27.

Dockworkers initially refused to unload any Teslas at four major Swedish ports starting on Nov. 7, which on Friday expanded to 55 ports.

Unions representing cleaners have also refused to service Tesla facilities, and the postal workers’ union stopped any deliveries from reaching the company’s sites.

Both IF Metall and the Transport Workers’ unions have acknowledged that Tesla has found ways around the strikes. Tesla appeared to be bringing in other mechanics to staff its facilities and bringing new vehicles into Sweden by truck, they said.

The strike efforts have also been hampered by some union members who work for Tesla refusing to join, Swedish media have reported.

What Other Unions Say: Germans have voiced support.

In Germany, where Tesla produces the Model Y at a gigafactory outside Berlin, union leaders have been seeking to organize the roughly 11,500 employees who work there. Tesla’s leadership have not engaged with the German autoworkers’ union, IG Metall. Last month, several hundred workers wore union stickers calling for “safe and fair work.”

Dirk Schulze, the regional head of IG Metall in Brandenburg, where Tesla has its factory, has expressed his solidarity with the striking workers in Sweden. The strike in Sweden has given workers in Germany “the courage and confidence to organize themselves into a union and take their fate into their own hands,” Mr. Schulze said in a statement.

The union has not announced any further measures.

What Happens Next: More strikes are planned in Sweden.

This week, IF Metall said that 50 of its members at Hydro Extrusions, a company that produces an aluminum component for Tesla, would walk off their jobs next Friday.

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