Sweden’s Largest Union Joins Tesla Mechanics Strike

Sweden’s largest union has supported a six-month-old strike by Tesla mechanics, escalating the U.S. automaker’s ongoing labor dispute. The strike centers on Tesla’s refusal to sign a collective bargaining agreement with the metal workers’ union, which seeks to negotiate deals for all employees, reports Reuters.

Last month, Musk claimed the labor issues were resolved, but IF Metall, the metal workers’ union, stated the strike is ongoing. According to the union, about 44 of its members, roughly a third of Tesla’s Swedish mechanics, have ceased work. Tesla services vehicles locally in Sweden but does not produce them there.

“The strike is ongoing and we have no signs of reaching an agreement in the near future,” said IF Metall head Marie Nilsson. “We have had a few sittings with the Swedish management during April, but … Tesla has shown little willingness in discussing an end to the conflict.”

More than a dozen unions have supported IF Metall, with Unionen being the latest and largest. “It is fundamentally important to protect our collective agreement system,” said Martin Wastfeldt, head of negotiations at Unionen.

Unionen began a blockade on Tuesday affecting all work for Tesla at DEKRA Industrial AB, which conducts equipment inspections. Wastfeldt indicated Unionen is prepared to do more if Tesla seeks alternative providers, potentially involving members at the company producing license plates for Tesla or administrative staff at Tesla itself.

Access to license plates has been a key issue, with Tesla suing unions that have attempted to halt postal services to the automaker. The union for Service and Communication employees, Seko, stated it was taking steps to close a loophole in the blockade used by Tesla.

Previously, Tesla has stated its Swedish employees have terms as good as or better than those demanded by the union. The outcome of this conflict is significant for Tesla, whose strong stance against unions globally could be weakened if it concedes in Sweden or if the strike spreads to larger markets like Germany.

While the number of striking workers in Sweden is small, the implications are considerable. “For IF Metall, it is very important not to lose. They simply cannot do that,” said trade union expert Anders Kjellberg. Sweden’s unions, buoyed by past successes, possess significant resources, with IF Metall’s strike fund exceeding 10 billion crowns ($921 million).

Union actions have caused some disruption, but Tesla’s vehicle registrations in Sweden have remained steady. Since February, Tesla has brought in about 25 temporary staff from other European countries, contrasting with the previous year when no such workers were employed.

Kjellberg suggested potential resolutions, noting that Amazon, for instance, uses third-party companies with collective agreements to manage its Swedish warehouses, avoiding direct involvement. “It could last for months or even years, because IF Metall can’t give up,” Kjellberg said. “But in time, it is possible both parties will want to find a solution.”