Tesla union pressure in Sweden increases as dock workers escalate strike

A view shows the Malacca Highway ship beached as port workers block the loading of Tesla vehicles, in Malmö, Sweden, November 7, 2023. Johan Nilsson / TT News Agency / via REUTERS / File Photo Obtaining licensing rights

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden’s dockworkers pledged on Friday to refuse to unload Tesla (TSLA.O) cars at any of the country’s ports as they expand their industrial scope in sympathy with Tesla workers’ demands for collective bargaining agreements.

Tesla, co-founded by billionaire Elon Musk, does not manufacture in Sweden, but its electric cars are serviced by more than 120 mechanics affiliated with the Swedish IF Metall union, which went on strike on October 27.

Dockworkers joined a mechanics’ strike on November 7, closing Sweden’s four largest ports to Tesla vehicles. This was expanded to include all ports on Friday at 12 am (1100 GMT).

A spokesman for the transport union, of which dockworkers are members, said Swedish ports often see one to three shipments of Tesla cars per week, but no shipments have arrived since the start of the strike.

“So the blockade is successful,” the spokesman said.

US-based Tesla, which has revolutionized the electric car market, has managed to avoid collective bargaining agreements, covering wages and conditions, with its roughly 127,000 workers, and Musk has been vocal about his opposition to unions.

IF Metall President Mary Nelson told Reuters on Friday that the union received some indications early in the dispute that Tesla was engaging in strike-breaking tactics by airlifting workers from other countries.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before… and we haven’t dealt with this in Sweden since 1937 or so,” Nilsson says.

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“This forced us to escalate the conflict,” she added.

If Sweden can break Tesla’s resistance, it could set a precedent for other countries.

So far, unions in the United States and Germany have failed to force the automaker to accept collective bargaining agreements.

“If they come to Sweden, they have to follow the rules. We have certain rules here and he (Musk) has to accept them,” said Torbjörn Johansson, negotiating secretary at the Swedish Trade Union.

“Swedish workers cannot afford to lose this battle.”

Swedish unions have had success convincing foreign companies to accept local industrial practices.

In the 1990s, American toy company Toys “R” Us signed a collective bargaining agreement with its 130 Swedish employees after a three-month strike.

IF Metall has no plans to stop the strike anytime soon, Nelson said.

“As long as there is a need for it,” she said.

In addition to dock workers, unionized janitors are refusing to clean Tesla buildings, and postal workers have stopped delivering mail.

Electricians on Friday halted Tesla service and repair work, including its charging stations across Sweden.

Swedish workers also have support from Norway’s Fellesforbundet, the largest LO union in the country.

Actions against Tesla in Sweden are set to escalate further – if an agreement is not reached – on November 24 when about 50 unionized workers at Hydro Extrusions, a subsidiary of Norwegian aluminum and energy company Hydro (NHY.OL), will stop working at Tesla. . Automotive products.

Tesla did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

(Reporting by Marie Maness) Additional reporting by Louise Rasmussen, Johan Ahlander, Else Felix and Johannes Birkbeck (Editing by Simon Johnson, Mark Potter and Susan Fenton)

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Stockholm-based corporate news reporter who covers basically anything related to retail and industrial companies in Sweden as well as other sectors with Swedish companies. She previously covered the Nordic public stock market from Gdansk, reporting on a range of topics, from companies exiting Russia to mergers and acquisitions and supply chain concerns. Mary has degrees in Journalism and International Relations and is keen to find market-moving stories that contain underreported elements.

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