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Tesla's problems in Sweden are getting worse as dockworkers refuse to unload its EVs from ships

Polly Thompson   

Tesla's problems in Sweden are getting worse as dockworkers refuse to unload its EVs from ships
  • Tesla is facing growing pressure in Sweden over its refusal to sign a collective wage agreement.
  • Dockworkers, cleaners, and postal service workers are standing in solidarity with Tesla mechanics.

The labor dispute over Tesla's refusal to sign a collective wage agreement in Sweden has escalated into a dramatic labor battle.

Unions representing multiple industries announced this week that they would join the strike in solidarity with IF Metall, the Tesla mechanics' trade union.

The standoff started in late October with a walkout led by IF Metall.

In Sweden, which doesn't have minimum wage legislation for workers, about 90% of employees are covered by collective agreements involving unions and employers.

IF Metall describes the agreements as "the backbone of the Swedish model" and said it's been trying to negotiate one with Tesla for the last five years.

The union said Tesla wages are below the industry average in Sweden, and it wants to secure better pensions and insurance guarantees.

As talks have stalled once again this week, the union is ramping up its efforts.

On Friday, dockworkers, who've been refusing to unload Tesla vehicles at four major Swedish ports for several weeks, will extend their blockade to all ports in the country.

They will be joined by cleaners from the Swedish Building Maintenance Workers' Union, who will stop working at Tesla-owned locations from 12 p.m. local time.

About 50 members of the union clean four Tesla showrooms and service centers, Wired reported, adding that the labor action was the "biggest union action the company has faced anywhere in the world."

The cleaners were joining the labor action "simply because the [IF] Metall Workers Trade Union asked us to," ombudsman Torbjörn Jonsson told Wired.

If Tesla doesn't cave after three days of strikes, Sweden's postal workers have also announced that they will join the strikes and stop delivering letters, spare parts, and pallets to Tesla.

"The fight that IF Metall is now taking is important for the entire Swedish collective agreement model," Seko, the union representing postal workers, said in a statement.

Sweden is one of Tesla's smaller markets, but the company's EVs have become the most popular in the country this year, data from showed.

Though it is unclear how much impact the strikes will have given the limited number of staff employed by Tesla in Sweden, it adds pressure to the famously anti-union Musk to adapt to European labor norms.

In Germany, the largest labor union secured a 4% pay rise for 11,000 staff at Teslas Berlin Gigafactory.

IG Metall, the German trade union that is leading efforts to unionize at Tesla factories in Grünheide, Germany, sent a message of support to Swedish workers.

"Your strike also gives our colleagues in Grunheide courage and confidence to organize themselves into a union and take their fate into their own hands," IG Metall said.

Tesla and IF Metall did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment, made outside of normal working hours.

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