More than a week after Tesla mechanics in Sweden began a strike to force the U.S. automaker to accept a collective bargaining agreement, union officials said Tesla representatives would meet with the union on Monday.
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.
Tesla doesn’t make cars in Sweden and the country is a relatively small market for the automaker. But the action of dozens of mechanics is beginning to reverberate. Longshoremen at the country’s four largest ports said they would stop unloading shiploads of Teslas on Tuesday to support the strikers.
The IF Metall union has been calling on the automaker for years to begin discussions about adopting a collective agreement that would set the basis for wages and social benefits for the approximately 120 mechanics that Tesla employs in its service facilities in Sweden. Around 90 percent of all employees in Sweden are subject to such agreements.
Since the union called for a strike on October 27, dozens of mechanics who are union members have stayed home and disrupted the service appointments of some Tesla drivers. Not all union members took part, said Jesper Pettersson, a spokesman for IF Metall, acknowledging reports that some service facilities appeared to be largely unaffected.
“It’s not easy to go on strike,” he added.
But the action, coupled with the threat that other unions would get involved, appeared to be enough to force Tesla to the negotiating table. A meeting between union and company representatives is scheduled for Monday, Mr. Petterson said.
Despite its relatively small size, Sweden has the world’s third-highest share of electric vehicle sales at 32 percent, after Norway and Iceland, according to the World Resources Institute, a research organization. Tesla enjoys a growing fan base and its Model Y, a German-made sport utility vehicle, was the best-selling electric vehicle in Sweden this year.
Tesla owner Elon Musk has resisted efforts to unionize Tesla workers for years, and in 2018 threatened to compensate U.S. employees who wanted to join a union (a statement that was later ruled to violate labor laws).
German Bender, a labor market analyst at Arena, a think tank in Stockholm, said Tesla could “view this small conflict in Sweden as a risk of contagion to other markets.”
In Germany, IG Metall, a union affiliated with Sweden’s IF Metall, is trying to organize the Tesla factory in Grünheide near Berlin.
And in the United States, following the significant wage and benefit increases won by the United Automobile Workers following a six-week strike wave at the three major Detroit automakers, union leaders have targeted Tesla’s U.S. workers as part of a broader push to do so Organize non-union factories throughout the United States.
The power of organized labor in Sweden is considerable. About 70 percent of the country’s workforce belongs to a union, and Swedish law allows solidarity strikes to support the efforts of other unions.
This happened in 1995 when another well-known US company started operations in Sweden. Toys “R” Us was unwilling to accept a collective bargaining agreement, and retail workers in Sweden went on strike. Although the company only had 80 employees in the country, other unions supported its cause, including postal, transportation and municipal workers who disrupted mail delivery and garbage collection. After three months, the company signed an agreement.
In support of IF Metall, the Swedish Transport Workers Union said that port workers would no longer unload Tesla cars from Tuesday afternoon.
“If IF Metall Transport asks for support, it is important and obvious that we help to advocate for the collective agreement and the Swedish labor market model,” said the transport workers’ union.
IF Metall had not asked any other union for support until the outcome of the talks on Monday, Pettersson said.
Sweden relies on collective agreements negotiated between employers and unions in each industrial sector to set basic employment conditions.
Under the agreement IF Metall is seeking, Tesla workers would receive a more comprehensive insurance package, guaranteed training to transition to another job in the event of a cut, and annual wage increases, the union said. Employees who do not belong to a union are also subject to collective agreements.
It’s not just companies based abroad that are hesitant to support the country’s centuries-old tariff model. Some homegrown companies such as Klarna, the buy now, pay later giant and streaming provider Spotify have pushed back, citing the need to remain nimble and agile in the rapidly changing tech industry.
After six months of negotiations, two of the unions representing Klarna employees had threatened to walk away from their jobs next week. The company said they managed to reach an agreement late on Friday, thereby avoiding a strike.
Source : www.nytimes.com