Elon Musk has labeled the strikes as 'unbelievable' while Swedish workers confront Tesla

Elon Musk has labeled the strikes as 'unbelievable' while Swedish workers confront Tesla

Elon Musk has condemned the ongoing series of "unbelievable" strikes targeting Tesla's workshops in Sweden, where workers are advocating for collective bargaining rights for the US electric car manufacturer.

Represented as a significant battle to uphold Sweden's union model against global labor practices, the influential trade union IF Metall has orchestrated a strike across eight Tesla facilities in Sweden spanning five weeks.

This marks the first instance of workers from the US automaker engaging in a strike. Musk, the tech magnate and CEO of Tesla, expressed his strong disapproval on X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday, stating, "This is beyond belief."

His response was prompted by a social media post highlighting secondary strikes—also known as sympathy strikes—by Swedish postal services, which are obstructing the delivery of license plates to new Tesla vehicles.

IF Metall, boasting over 300,000 members in Swedish industry, has affirmed its commitment to persist with the strikes "for as long as necessary." The union initiated these actions following Tesla's refusal to enter into a collective agreement with its members.

Collective agreements, which encompass various aspects like salary, pension schemes, work hours, and holidays, represent a fundamental aspect of Sweden's labor market model. In principle, these agreements allow unions and employers—not the state—to regulate the labor market.

Despite a decline in union membership in Sweden over recent decades, a significant portion of the workforce remains affiliated with unions, with approximately nine out of every ten employees benefiting from collective arrangements.

The strike at Tesla has triggered additional support from eight other unions, generating a ripple effect that threatens to extend its impact into neighboring Norway. Fellesförbundet, the largest private sector union in the country, has indicated its readiness to partake in sympathetic actions.
Marie Nilsson, chair of IF Metall, emphasized that the strike wasn't just about supporting Tesla workers but safeguarding the integrity of the Swedish union model. She highlighted the potential repercussions of allowing companies like Tesla to operate without collective agreements, warning that it could set a precedent for other international companies and industries. Nilsson expressed determination, stating that the fight might endure for an extended period, asserting, "We'll persist for as long as necessary."

The strike has garnered solidarity from various sectors: transport and harbor workers refusing to handle Tesla cars in Swedish ports, electricians declining service or repairs at Tesla workshops, and workers at charging stations and in painting refusing work on Tesla vehicles. Other support includes service and communication workers halting post and shipments to Tesla.

IF Metall's spokesperson, Jesper Pettersson, indicated preparedness for an extended conflict, expressing regret over the absence of ongoing discussions with Tesla Sweden but remaining open to future dialogue at the earliest opportunity.

The impact of the strike extends beyond Tesla, evidenced when the Swedish payment firm Klarna swiftly entered into a collective agreement following the onset of the Tesla strike, averting a planned strike at its Stockholm headquarters.

Subsequently, Klarna's co-founder and CEO, Sebastian Siemiatkowski, highlighted the significance of the Swedish model, expressing confidence in the benefits of the agreement and the potential for Klarna to contribute to fortifying the Swedish model from within.

Ship and lots of cars

Certain analysts have suggested that the developments at Tesla might prompt discussions within Spotify's Swedish division. Earlier this year, Spotify withdrew from collective agreement talks, asserting skepticism about the potential benefits for its employees.

In Norway, where approximately 500 Tesla employees are organized according to Fellesförbundet, the union's leader, Jørn Eggum, pledged to prevent Swedish Teslas from entering the country. Eggum stressed the importance of holding Tesla accountable and ensuring their commitment to collective agreements across their European operations, labeling Norway as not a passageway for Tesla to bypass strike actions.

Jesper Hamark, an economic history researcher and visiting research fellow at the University of Gothenburg, framed the strike as a defense of the Scandinavian model against the American approach. Drawing parallels to successful union actions, such as the strikes at Toys R Us in 1995, Hamark expressed confidence in the union's stance, stating that Tesla is unlikely to remain in Sweden without a collective arrangement. He emphasized the significance of the issue at hand and speculated on the eventual outcome.

As of now, Tesla has not responded to requests for comment, while Spotify has declined to offer a statement on the matter.

 

--------This article is partly excerpted from The Guardian.

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