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Tesla sues Swedish state over strike fallout

STOCKHOLM (AFP) – Electric carmaker Tesla on Monday filed a lawsuit against the Swedish state over a strike by postal workers blocking deliveries of licence plates for its new cars – and received a first favourable decision the same day.

Tesla is currently facing strikes on multiple fronts in Sweden over its refusal to sign a collective wage agreement for its mechanics.

On November 20, Swedish postal workers joined in and began halting deliveries to Tesla offices and repair shops.

As licence plates for new cars are only delivered by mail in Sweden, the blockade could stop new Teslas hitting the road there, something Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk branded “insane”.

Musk has long rejected calls to allow the company’s 127,000 employees worldwide to unionise.

Tesla vehicles line a parking lot at the company factory in United States. PHOTO: AP

However, collective agreements with unions are the basis of the Swedish labour market model, covering almost 90 per cent of all employees and guaranteeing wages and working conditions.

Tesla has asked the courts to compel the Swedish Transport Agency to make sure plates for vehicles registered with the agency “come into Tesla’s possession”.

Tesla also asked the court to impose a fine of USD96,000 if the Swedish Transport Agency fails to comply.

There was some good news for Tesla yesterday when the transport agency said it had received a “provisional” court ruling requiring it to agree, within seven days, to Tesla collecting its number plates directly from the plate manufacturer.

“Our plate manufacturer has announced that it is prepared to supply the plates directly to Tesla, provided that the Swedish Transport Agency agrees,” added the public agency in a message to AFP, adding that it was assessing the consequences of this court ruling.

The agency told AFP last week that it was only able to deliver the plates via postal carrier Postnord, as it was bound to use it under a contract that applies to all government agencies.

In a separate suit, Tesla wants the courts to compel Postnord, which is owned by the Swedish and Danish states, to hand over all deliveries addressed to Tesla. Some 130 mechanics at 10 Tesla repair shops in seven cities across Sweden walked off the job on October 27, according to trade union IF Metall.

The strike has since expanded to include other repair shops that service Tesla.

Dock workers have also stopped unloading Tesla cars at Swedish ports. In addition to IF Metall, nine other unions have announced “sympathy measures”.