Sweden’s Tesla Blockade Is Spreading

Swedish workers unite against Tesla. Starting tomorrow, cleaners will stop cleaning Tesla showrooms, electricians will not repair the company’s charging stations, and dock workers will refuse to unload Tesla goods at all Swedish ports. What started as a Tesla mechanics strike The situation is spreading, in what Swedish unions describe as an existential battle between Elon Musk’s carmaker and the conventions that they say make the country’s labor market fair and efficient.

The standoff in Sweden is the largest industrial action the company has faced anywhere in the world. Sweden has no laws setting working conditions, such as a minimum wage. Rather, these rules are dictated by collective bargaining agreements, a type of contract that defines the benefits employees are entitled to, such as wages and working hours. For five years, the industrial union IF Metall, which represents Tesla mechanics, has been trying to convince the company to sign a collective agreement. Faced with Tesla’s refusal, the mechanics decided to strike at the end of October. They then asked their Swedish union colleagues to join them.

“Collective agreements form the backbone of the Swedish labor market model,” says Mikael Pettersson, head of negotiations at the electricians union, which plans to join the blockade tomorrow. “The fight for the Swedish model becomes even more crucial when it involves a company as large as Tesla.” Negotiations are currently at a standstill. IF Metall spokesperson Jesper Pettersson told WIRED that there were no ongoing negotiations with Tesla on Wednesday.

Tesla did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Some unions that have joined the blockade are expanding their actions in an effort to be more effective. Since November 7, trade unionists working in four Swedish ports have refused to unload Tesla goods. Tomorrow the blockade will be extended to all Swedish ports. “We don’t want to unload Tesla cars,” says Jimmy Åström, president of the dockers’ branch of the Swedish Transport Union and working at the port of Gävle. “We are going to authorize all other cars [to dock]but the Tesla cars, they will stay on the ship.

He hopes Tesla understands how important this issue is to the country’s workers. “Not just for dockworkers, but for all Swedish workers.”

The Swedish Building Maintenance Workers’ Union will also join the blockade of Tesla at noon local time on Friday, “simply because the [IF] The Metal Workers Union asked us for this,” said mediator Torbjörn Jonsson, adding that the union has around 50 members who clean Tesla sites. Four showrooms and service centers will be involved: three around Stockholm and one in the city of Umeå. “Their workshops and showrooms will not be cleaned.”

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