(Stockholm) Tesla technicians who left their jobs in Sweden say they still support the mission of the American company and its CEO. But they also want Tesla to accept the “Swedish way” of doing business.
They call it the Swedish model, the way of life that has defined the country’s economy for decades. At the heart of this model is cooperation between employers and employees, which allows both parties to receive profits from the business.
Instead, four technicians who quit their jobs in October said they were subjected to what they describe as a “typical American model”: six-day work weeks, unavoidable overtime and a system of assessment leading to promotions that lacks clarity.
The union representing Tesla workers, IF Metall, does not want to say how many technicians have walked off the job, out of the 130 in the company. There might only be a few dozen.
The company’s 10 service centers remain open. The strike is entering its third month and is having a significant impact on the Nordic region. At least 15 other unions have taken steps to try to force Tesla to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement that sets wages and benefits that reflect industry standards in Sweden. Daniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, warned that the conflict was becoming “an important issue for Tesla and its CEO, Elon Musk, regarding unions globally.”
Polls show a majority of Swedes support the strike, widely seen as a defense of the way the country operates. In Sweden, nine out of ten people work under an employment agreement and strikes are relatively rare. As the walkout continues, questions are being raised about whether Sweden’s reliance on labor-management agreements deprives companies of flexibility and agility.
The reactions of some of the approximately 50,000 Tesla owners in the country reflect this divide: They see the walkout as a power grab by a wealthy and politically influential union.
The company declined multiple requests for comment. At a service center in Malmö this month, workers wearing Tesla shirts were busy moving cars in and out. The strikers said some of the employees appeared to have been hired recently.
Unions in Denmark, Norway and Finland, as well as Sweden, have rallied behind IF Metal. Longshoremen stopped unloading Teslas arriving by boat, union members at independent repair shops stopped repairing Teslas, postal workers stopped delivering Tesla mail, including license plates, and electricians stopped have committed to no longer repairing Tesla charging stations.
The company also appears to have found a loophole to get around the postal blockade by ordering license plates that will be sent directly to customers.
Sympathy strikes have sowed discord. Some businesses not directly affected by the walkout, such as independent auto repair shops, have lost business because they entered into collective bargaining agreements with IF Metal that require them to refuse Tesla-related orders. According to Swedish law, if a union calls for a sympathy strike, its members must join in.
Neither side has indicated it is ready to back down. IF Metal, which represents workers in other heavy industries, has built up its war chest over decades. He offers strikers 130% of their wages.
Tesla also has deep pockets – the company is valued at around $817 billion – and claims to offer wages and benefits equal to or better than those provided by a collective bargaining agreement, including stock options as a substitute. lucrative incentive. The company demonstrated its willingness to fight by suing the Swedish vehicle registration agency and the postal company after its number plates were blocked. The proceedings, initiated in November, continue.
Strikes are rare because once a labor agreement goes into effect, the union cannot call one. This peace guarantee has helped keep the number of strike days in Sweden at one of the lowest levels in Europe: just over 2 working days per year lost due to strikes and lockouts for 1,000 employees between 2010 and 2019, compared to 55 in Norway and 128 in France, according to a study.
Marie Nilsson has been a member of IF Metall for over 40 years, taking the helm in 2017. She remembers joining the picket line in 1995 to support workers striking against Toys “R” Us, the last large American company to have rejected a collective agreement. But this is the first time that she has called for a strike.
She refuted Tesla’s argument that it offers equal or better terms than employees would get under a collective bargaining agreement.
Four tech workers who described the reasons for their strike said they admired Elon Musk. One gushed that the new Cybertruck’s extended battery would be a game-changer. Janis Kuzma drives a Model Y. But everyone agreed that despite Mr. Musk’s genius for revolutionizing electric vehicles, he was picking a fight with a country that values consensus, and that it would be wrong to do so. he amalgamation between the Swedish model and the United Auto Workers, the American union which took a hard line against the three Detroit automakers during a recent strike.