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Tesla faces strikes in Sweden unless it signs collective agreement


Pressure is growing on Tesla in Sweden, where a union is demanding that the Texas-based automaker sign a collective bargaining agreement, like most employees in the Scandinavian country.

Tesla does not have a manufacturing plant in Sweden, but 130 members of the powerful metalworkers’ union IF Metall walked out on October 27 in seven workshops across the country where its popular electric cars are serviced.

Other unions showed solidarity, including dockworkers at Sweden’s four largest ports who decided on Tuesday to stop deliveries of Tesla vehicles to increase pressure on the automaker to accept the metalworkers’ demands.

On Friday, the painters’ union said 53 painting companies would not carry out any work on Tesla vehicles, out of sympathy for IF Metall. If there is no agreement with Tesla by Tuesday, “a total of 109 companies could be prevented from handling and painting Tesla cars,” the group said in a statement.

Another major union, the Swedish Union of Service and Communications Employees, announced that it would stop deliveries to Tesla on November 20. Its leader, Gabriella Lavecchia, said Tesla “refuses to play by the rules of the game here in Sweden.” calling it “completely unacceptable.”

“The fight that IF Metall is currently waging is important for the entire Swedish model of collective agreements,” Lavecchia said.

Former Swedish Social Democratic Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, who led IF Metall, also encouraged Swedes to suspend Tesla purchases until a deal is signed.

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

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

The IF Metall union and Tesla Sweden met twice without result, according to Swedish media.

IF Metall said Tesla Sweden had “refused to sign a collective agreement and violated the fundamental principles of the Swedish labor market.” He called these agreements “the backbone of the Swedish model”.

“We don’t want a model in which some companies compete with other – serious – employers by offering their employees worse conditions than they would have with a collective agreement,” he said. The union asked for consumers’ understanding, saying “we are doing this for the sake of our members, to ensure they have safe working conditions.”

The strike resembles the situation in 1995, when the Toys R Us toy chain started in Sweden, refused to sign a collective agreement and hired only non-union workers. This resulted in a three-month strike by the retail workers’ union, which turned into a full boycott as other unions joined in solidarity strikes. The company finally agreed to sign collective agreements.

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