Germany’s Biggest Union Sets Sights On Upcoming Tesla Plant

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Tesla's Model S. Image credit: Tesla

Germany’s largest union IG Metall reportedly has its sights on organising labour at Tesla’s upcoming Berlin factory, in spite of a lack of enthusiasm from the company

Germany’s largest union has indicated it has its sights set on organising labour at Tesla’s first European plant, in spite of a seeming lack of enthusiasm from the company.

Tesla is set to open its first European Gigafactory at a site near Berlin later this year, but has not yet entered into an agreement with the powerful IG Metall metalworkers’ union.

The company ignored a letter from the union inviting a dialogue last year and has declined to enter into the industry’s collective agreement with Tesla Grohmann Automation, an engineering firm it acquired in 2016.

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Tesla chief executive Elon Musk. Image credit: SpaceX

Organisation

The company has also so far made no move to join the country’s employers’ association, of which virtually every major carmaker operating in Germany is a member, and through which they negotiate industry-wide contracts.

Tesla has begun hiring for the plant in Gruenheide, and IG Metall head Joerg Hofmann said he was looking to set up a works council at the site, Reuters reported.

“If the team for Gruenheide is on board we will establish a works council with the employees and organise them,” Hofmann said.

He said he had not been in contact with Tesla chief excutive Elon Musk, but that the company was aware of Germany’s strong traditions of labour organisation.

“Tesla is now hiring in Gruenheide, in the land of co-determination and collective bargaining agreements. Tesla’s management knows this,” he said.

Labour probe

Last week German authorities probed possible violations of labour laws at the construction site of the future factory, but later said they had found no violations.

The report was another indication that labour figures are keeping a close watch on Tesla’s plans for the German site, which is intended to be the linchpin of its European strategy.

The company aims to eventually build 500,000 European-market cars per year while producing next-generation battery cells at the facility, a strategy that could be impeded by a prolonged struggle with IG Metall.

Tesla had originally planned to start production at the plant on 1 July, but the date was pushed back towards the end of 2021 due to red tape as well as plans to build a battery cell factory on the site.

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