Workers at the seven Tesla-branded Swedish repair shops earn less and lack the same pensions and insurance as other mechanics in the industry, Pettersson claims. Tesla did not respond to WIRED’s request for comment.
Sweden was Tesla’s fifth-biggest market in Europe this year, with 16,309 new vehicles registered in the first nine months, according to Bloomberg. IF Metall has been attempting to get Tesla to sign a collective agreement with workers in its repair shops since 2018, adds Pettersson. “A year ago, [Tesla] finally decided, no, they won’t sign,” he says, adding that the strike will continue until there is an agreement in place. “We are prepared to be on strike for a long time.”
The repair shop strike has been criticized as ineffective. Members of Sweden’s official Tesla club, a group of Tesla owners that operates independently from the company, were worried about how they would fix their cars if they broke down. So the club’s president, Tibor Blomhäll, decided to visit his local repair shop on the strike’s first day to understand its impact.
Business at the repair shop he visited in north Stockholm continued as normal, he says. “There were at least a dozen, but probably more than 20 people, working on cars,” he claims.
“Of course, we have got reports that some people are working despite the strike,” Pettersson says. But since the Transport Union threatened to blockade the port, Tesla has restarted its negotiations with IF Metall. Talks were held yesterday and are due to take place again on Monday.
Sweden is not the only country that has accused Tesla of violating labor laws and conventions.
Tesla workers in the US have made several failed attempts to unionize. In April, the US National Labor Relations Board ruled that the company violated local labor law by telling employees not to discuss pay and other working conditions or bring complaints to managers. The IG Metall union in Germany has also expressed concern about safety and overwork at the carmaker’s only European Gigafactory, near Berlin.
“The electric vehicle is a symbol of the whole green transition, and it’s a big irony that Tesla is refusing to engage in the social dimension of the big transition that we’re going through,” says Claes Mikael Ståhl, deputy general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, a nonprofit that represents workers across the EU.
Workers outside Sweden will be watching closely to see how this dispute develops, says Ståhl. “I think it will be inspiring for unions in other countries to see this, because I think that the Swedish union will be successful in the long run.”