Tesla faces strikes in Sweden unless it signs a collective bargaining agreement


STOCKHOLM (AP) — Pressure is growing on Tesla in Sweden, where a trade union is demanding that the Texas-based automaker sign a collective bargaining agreement, which most employees in the Scandinavian country have.

Tesla has no manufacturing plant in Sweden, but 130 members of the powerful metalworkers’ union IF Metall walked out on Oct. 27 at seven workshops across the country where its popular electric cars are serviced.

Other trade unions joined in solidarity, including dockworkers at Sweden’s four largest ports who decided Tuesday to stop the delivery of Tesla vehicles to increase pressure on the automaker to accept the metal workers’ demands.

On Friday, the Painters’ Union said 53 painting companies would not do any work on Tesla vehicles in sympathy with IF Metall. If there is no agreement with Tesla by Tuesday, “a total of 109 companies may be prevented from handling and painting Tesla cars,” it said in a statement.

Another major trade union, the Swedish Union for Service and Communications Employees, said it will halt shipments to Tesla on Nov. 20. Its head, Gabriella Lavecchia, said Tesla is “refusing to comply with the rules of the game here in Sweden,” calling it “completely unacceptable.”

“The fight that IF Metall is now taking on is important for the entire Swedish collective agreement model,” Lavecchia said.

Sweden’s former Social Democratic prime minister, Stefan Löfven, who once headed IF Metall, also encouraged Swedes to suspend purchases of Teslas until an agreement is signed.

”Shame on you, Tesla, shame on you,” Löfven wrote on Facebook on Oct. 26.

Tesla, which is non-unionized globally, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The IF Metall union and Tesla Sweden have meet twice without results, according to Swedish media.

IF Metall said Tesla Sweden has “refused to sign a collective agreement and violates basic principles in the Swedish labor market.” It called such agreements “the backbone of the Swedish model.”

“We do not want a model where some companies compete with other — serious — employers by offering employees worse conditions than they would have with a collective agreement,” it said. The union asked for the understanding of consumers, saying “we are doing this for the sake of our members, to ensure that they have safe working conditions.”

The strike resembles the situation in 1995 when the Toys R Us toy chain started up in Sweden, refused to sign a collective agreement and hired only non-union workers. It resulted in a three-month strike by the retail-store employees union that snowballed into an all-out boycott as other unions joined in sympathy strikes. The company eventually agreed to sign collective agreements.

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