Swedish workers join fight against Tesla
Dockworkers block ports for cars in sympathy with company’s workers demanding collective bargaining agreements
Stockholm — Dockworkers in Sweden have expanded their protest action against Tesla and are preventing the US firm’s cars from being unloaded at all ports in sympathy with Tesla workers demanding collective bargaining agreements.
Tesla, cofounded by billionaire Elon Musk, does not manufacture in Sweden, but its electric cars are serviced by about 130 mechanics affiliated with Swedish union IF Metall, which began a strike on October 27.
Dockworkers joined the strike by mechanics on November 7, blocking Sweden’s four largest ports to Tesla cars. That was expanded to all ports on Friday.
Tesla, which has revolutionised the electric car market, has managed to avoid collective bargaining agreements, which cover wages and conditions, with its 127,000 workers and Musk has been vocal about his opposition to unions.
But if Sweden can break Tesla’s resistance, that could provide a precedent for other countries. So far, unions in the US and Germany have failed to force the company to accept collective bargaining agreements.
“If they have come to Sweden, they must follow the rules, We have certain norms here and he [Musk] must accept them,” Torbjorn Johansson, negotiation secretary at Sweden’s LO labour confederation, said. “Swedish workers cannot afford to lose this fight.”
In addition to dockworkers, unionised cleaners are refusing to clean Tesla buildings and postmen have stopped delivering mail.
On Friday, electricians stopped service and repair work for Tesla, including at its charging stations across Sweden. Swedish workers are also supported by Norway’s Fellesforbundet, the biggest union in the country’s LO confederation.
Swedish unions have achieved success before getting foreign firms 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.
Action against Tesla is due to escalate further — if no agreement is reached — on November 24 when about 50 unionised workers at Hydro Extrusions, a subsidiary of Norwegian aluminium and energy company Hydro, will stop work on Tesla car products.
Tesla has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
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