Elon Musk has branded the escalating Swedish strike against Tesla as “insane”, as it threatens to disrupt Tesla’s operations across Europe.
Last month, about 130 mechanics from Sweden who are members of the IF Metall trade union and work on electric cars went on strike after Tesla refused their request for collective negotiations.
Since then, dockworkers and auto dealers have refused to work for the brand in solidarity strikes that could harm the business of the company in Sweden and possibly further afield. Postal workers’ latest strike means that Tesla car licence plates will not be delivered to customers.
Musk, Tesla’s CEO and a staunch opponent of unionisation, said that the situation was “insane” in a Facebook post on his X platform.
Tesla has avoided collective negotiations in its global operations, despite opening a plant in Germany where the auto unions have a stronghold.
Matthias Schmidt, a European independent auto analyst, said: “This was a big cultural shock for Elon.” “He went out of his mind to avoid unionisation but this is a big wake-up call,” said Matthias Schmidt, an independent European auto analyst.
Norway’s unions, which is one of Europe’s largest markets for electric vehicles, have said that they will not allow Teslas bound for Sweden to be unloaded in the Scandinavian neighbouring country.
Analysts say that the biggest risk for Tesla is that other unions, particularly in Germany, join in the strike to show solidarity with their Swedish counterparts.
Tesla relies on its Berlin factory to produce almost three quarters of all the cars it sells throughout the region.
Schmidt warned that the virus could spread to other countries. The biggest risk is Germany. When they opened their factory in Germany, we expected the same thing to happen because of the strong unions.
Sweden is not a large market, but it’s dwarfed by the main markets, which are UK, Germany, and France.
Academics and trade unionists in Sweden are concerned that their decades-old labour model will be undermined by Tesla’s operation without a collective agreement. Marie Nilsson is the president of the IF Metall trade union. She said that the Swedish labour model, which includes collective agreements, gives Sweden a competitive edge in the global marketplace.
Tesla could also be facing a rise in unionization demands elsewhere within its global network.
United Auto Workers (UAW), the influential US union that represents car workers, has targeted Tesla in an effort to expand its membership beyond traditional Detroit automakers Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler after its historic wage deal was reached last month.