Last week, Tesla was worth just under 250 billion US
dollars. In comparison, the whole Swedish government estimated revenues of only
122 billion US dollars for the whole of 2023. It is thus hardly surprising that,
Elon Musk has so far been successful with his anti-social strategy. There is
not a single factory in the world where management and trade unions have agreed
a CLA. The working conditions are correspondingly poor, not only in terms of
wages, but also in terms of health and safety in the workplace. Not only are
there more serious accidents at work in the Tesla factories than in comparable
companies. According to research by Norwegian public television channel NRK,
Tesla management also uses a brutal "internal evaluation system" to
get rid of Tesla workers who have had accidents or are on sick leave – despite the
legal protection against dismissal. No wonder that more and more Tesla workers are
organising themselves into trade unions; namely in Norway and Germany and
mostly in secret; as it happened in the case of Ryanair pilots a few years ago,
as Tesla is, like Ryanair, known for deliberately dismissing union members.
The striking Swedish Tesla workers are under enormous
pressure. That is why their metalworkers' union IF Metall increased their
strike pay to 130 per cent of their Tesla wages. In addition, several trade
unions from Sweden and Norway are supporting their Tesla colleagues with
solidarity strikes. Swedish and Norwegian dock workers are refusing to deliver
Tesla cars. And Swedish postal workers have gone on strike against Tesla by no
longer delivering car licence plates for Tesla vehicles.
"This is madness!" said the Tesla boss when he
heard about this wave of solidarity in the far north. According to the
Financial Times, Musk fears that something similar could happen at the recently
opened Tesla plant in Brandenburg, Germany. He has therefore decided to go on
the offensive. On 27 November, he sued the Swedish state. He claims that the
solidarity strikes by the postal service are "discriminatory" and
restrict his "economic freedom". He is also supported by leading
Scandinavian capitalists, for whom the Nordic social “social model" has
long been a thorn in the side. Maria Landeborn, senior economist at Danske
Bank, even accuses the trade unions of using "mafia methods against
Tesla", although solidarity strikes are legal in Sweden and Norway.
Although a Swedish court has now allowed Tesla to collect the licence plates
for its new cars directly from the road traffic office, another court confirmed
the legality of the postal workers’ solidarity strike.
It will be crucial for the trade unions to put pressure on
Tesla in other countries as well. The prospects for this are not bad.
Ironically, the successful cross-border strike action of Ryanair pilots in
November 2017 showed that autocratic and apparently all powerful bosses like
Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary have done more to internationalise unions than
managers in classical social partnership workplaces, as we have shown in a
recent piece in the European Journal of
of European Integration & Employment Relations at the UCD School of
Business and Principal Investigator of the European Research Council (ERC)
Project ‘Labour Politics & the EU's New Economic Governance Regime
(European Unions)‘ at the UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy.
originally appeared in Roland Erne’s bi-monthly column on European labour
politics in the Swiss trade union newspaper Work: https://www.workzeitung.ch/kategorie/kolumnen/ernes-europa/