They profess to ‘accelerate the world’s transition to renewable energy’ – yet deny fair conditions for their workers. Elon Musk’s electric vehicle firm, Tesla, declines to negotiate collective agreements at car workshops in Sweden.

Talks with the trade union IF Metall have reached an impasse, and Tesla is reportedly ‘uninterested’ in achieving a resolution through a collective agreement with the union.

Currently, Tesla’s employees have inferior conditions compared to others protected by IF Metall’s automotive industry agreement, particularly since they lack safeguards against deterioration without a collective agreement.

Pension contributions, remuneration for work during inconvenient hours, minimum wages. In the absence of a collective agreement, employers can worsen or eliminate benefits at any time.

Musk refuses good working conditions

In order to maintain conditions in Sweden, IF Metall is doing everything within their power to uphold the Swedish labour market model: they are initiating strikes.

Tesla’s management has remained unyielding, and the workers have been on strike since midnight October 27. In total, approximately 120 employees across seven Swedish locations are impacted.

Elon Musk is known for many things. If he were to describe himself, he would likely portray himself as a successful entrepreneur and advocate for democracy. Space rockets, payment solutions, owner of X, formerly known as Twitter.

As the CEO of Tesla, he has attracted a lot of attention for the company.

What Musk probably prefers not to discuss is the fact that none of Tesla’s 120,000 employees worldwide are covered by any form of collective agreement.

He is likely not very eager to mention the reprisals he has threatened employees who join the union with.

Tesla wants to break strike

But that’s the way he and Tesla operate, wherever they set up shop. Dagens Arbete reports that Kim Jensen, the Nordic Manager at Tesla, plans to replace striking staff with other employees.

Strikebreaking is not prohibited by law but contradicts the order that has been in place in the Swedish labour market since the Saltsjöbaden Agreement was signed in 1938.

Generally, there is too much leniency towards unscrupulous employers. ‘Making a mistake’ or ‘not knowing’ is seen as an acceptable excuse by too many when an employer does not fulfill their part of an agreement or does not abide by the law. If you have a cool product and good PR, some seem to think that you can neglect your employees.

The same leniency, however, is not extended to the staff. They should be grateful that they have a job to go to and that they get paid for their work.

At the same time, as more and more capital is concentrated in a few individuals, the pressure mounts on the employees.

Less freedom, more surveillance, no collective agreements, consequences for those who speak up.

Trade unions are central

That’s why the role of unions is crucial. With a collective agreement, employees who do their duty can also demand their rights. It doesn’t have to go to the labuor court and lead to major conflicts.

Employees and employers agree, negotiate locally if something seems amiss. If someone in the workplace messes up, you agree on an appropriate action plan or compensation.

The model is successful and creates security and prosperity.

Above all, Elon Musk’s Tesla needs to understand that this is not the USA. It is not a free pass for a wealthy man with delusions of grandeur to behave however he pleases. In Sweden, we have another way of doing things.

It’s called the Swedish labour market model, and it doesn’t bend for American billionaires or cool cars.

Sorry, Elon Musk, but in Sweden, we have a system.