Elon Musk says strikes are crazy as Swedish workers stand up to Tesla

IF Metall, a prominent union, has been leading a strike at eight Tesla sites in Sweden for the past five weeks, the first time workers at the US automaker have taken such action.

The situation escalated when Musk, the tech billionaire and CEO of Tesla, took to X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday to share his thoughts, declaring: “This is crazy. His comment was in response to a social media post highlighting secondary strikes by the Swedish postal services that disrupted the delivery of license plates for new Tesla cars.

Commitment to continue strikes

IF Metall, a major trade union boasting more than three hundred thousand members in Swedish industry, remains steadfast in its commitment to the ongoing strikes, saying they will last “as long as it takes”. The union went on strike in response to Tesla’s refusal to enter into a collective agreement with its members.

Collective agreements, which deal with fundamental aspects such as salary, pension, working hours and holidays, play a key role in the Swedish labor market model. These agreements theoretically allow unions and employers to regulate the labor market and reduce the role of the state in these matters.

Despite the decline in trade union membership in Sweden in recent decades, a significant number of workers are still part of a union, with approximately nine out of ten employees having a collective arrangement.

More support from unions

Tesla’s strike, which Elon Musk called insane, has received support from eight other unions, raising fears it could spread to neighboring Norway. Fellesforbundet, Norway’s largest private sector trade union, has signaled its willingness to act in solidarity with the ongoing strikes.

Marie Nilsson, president of IF Metall, emphasized that the ongoing strike goes beyond the concerns of Tesla workers. It is a broader effort to protect the Swedish trade union model.

Nilsson believes that if companies like Tesla were to operate without collective agreements, it could set a precedent for other international companies and different industries. She emphasized the potential long-term impact, saying, “This could take a long time,” and reaffirmed the union’s commitment to hang on as long as necessary.

Support from various sectors

The strike received support from various sectors, with transport and port workers refusing to load or unload Tesla cars at all Swedish ports. Electricians are holding back from servicing or repairing Tesla workshops, while charging stations and paint workers are holding back from working on Tesla cars.

Other compassionate strikes include service and communications workers stopping the distribution of mail and shipments to Tesla. IF Metall spokesman Jesper Pettersson noted that the union is prepared for a long-term conflict. Despite the absence of ongoing talks with Tesla Sweden, Pettersson expressed openness to future discussions at the earliest opportunity.

Impact of the strike

The impact of the strike goes beyond Tesla. Swedish global payments company Klarna has hurriedly signed a collective agreement to avert a planned strike at its Stockholm headquarters.

Klarna co-founder and CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski emphasized the importance of the Swedish model and said he believed the deal would strengthen it from within. The ongoing industrial action at Tesla has sparked speculation about its potential impact on other Swedish companies, with some commentators suggesting it could spark discussions at Spotify’s Swedish division.

Earlier this year, Spotify walked away from collective bargaining negotiations, saying it saw no significant value for its employees in such an arrangement.

Across the border in Norway, where approximately five hundred Tesla employees are organized, Fellesforbundet leader Jorn Eggum announced his intention to block Swedish Teslas from entering the country.

Eggum emphasized the need to hold Tesla accountable and ensure the company adheres to collective agreements in the European countries where it operates. Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment, while Spotify declined to comment on the matter.

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