Elon Musk Return To Office Demand Opposed By German Union

Blunt order by Elon Musk for Tesla staff to return to the office or resign their jobs, faces pushback from trade union in Germany

Germany’s largest trade union has said it will back any Tesla employee not willing to comply with Elon Musk’s ‘return to the office or resign’ order.

On Tuesday Elon Musk issued a series of no nonsense emails to all Tesla workers, telling them to return to the office full time or resign.

“Everyone at Tesla is required to spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week,” he wrote in one email. “Moreover, the office must be where your actual colleagues are located, not some remote pseudo office. If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned.”

Image credit: Tesla
Tesla chief executive Elon Musk opens Gigafactory in Texas. Image credit: Tesla

Remote working

Tesla, like many firms, had allowed remote working for every role where it was possible (i.e. non-factory workers) since the Covid-19 pandemic started in early 2020.

But now two years later as the pandemic eases, many companies are re-evaluating their remote working practices, despite some resistance from staff to orders for them to the office.

Elon Musk however has rejected any resistance from staff reluctant to return to the office, in a series of emails that began with the subject title of “Remote work is no longer acceptable.”

But this blunt approach has not gone down well in Germany, where Tesla employs roughly 4,000 staff.

Tesla’s German workforce will be increased 12,000 once its recently opened Giga Berlin factory achieves full production.

The new Gigafactory Berlin-Brandenburg factory is located in Grünheide, a coal town in Brandenburg, Germany, within commuting distance of Berlin.

The German factory is only the third ever Tesla factory, and joins its existing assembly plants located in California and Shanghai.

Tesla is also constructing a factory in Austin, Texas, that is expected to open soon.

And it has been reportedly that Tesla will construct an additional factory in Shanghai, to more than double its China production capacity.

Union opposition

Elon Musk is known for cracking the whip, but this has not gone down well in some quarters.

On Thursday Reuters reported that Germany’s largest trade union, the IG Metall union in the German state of Brandenburg Sachsen, where Tesla’s factory is located, said it would support any employee who opposed Musk’s ultimatum.

“Whoever does not agree with such one-sided demands and wants to stand against them has the power of unions behind them in Germany, as per law,” Birgit Dietze, the district leader for IG Metall in Brandenburg Sachsen, reportedly said.

Tesla’s other factories in the US and China do not have trade unions, which have been resisted by Elon Musk.

But Tesla staff at the Gigafactory Berlin-Brandenburg factory elected 19 people to its first workers’ council in February, making it the only Tesla factory with union representation.

Some of the workers at the factory are part of IG Metall which represents workers across automotive companies and other industrial sectors.

Other car makers

And Elon Musk’s strict recall notice has not been supported by other car makers.

According to Reuters, Germany has no laws to ensure a right to work from home, but the German labour ministry is working on policies that would increase flexibility for workers.

But it seems that many large employers in Germany, including carmakers, have already embraced hybrid working models in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic

“We have a fundamentally different view on creating an attractive working environment, and stand for empowerment and personal responsibility in our teams to balance the ratio of mobile and in-person work,” Gunnar Kilian, Volkswagen board member responsible for human resources was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile BMW and Mercedes-Benz reportedly echoed that view when asked about Musk’s ultimatum.

“Hybrid working is the working model of the future… different forms are possible, from complete presence to predominantly remote working,” a Mercedes-Benz spokesperson told Reuters.