Tesla Drives Further Into Nordic Storm

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – Texas-based electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla’s refusal to sign collective bargaining agreements with trade unions in the Nordic region is leading to widespread industrial action and a growing pushback from local institutional shareholders.  The company’s troubles began in October 2023 when 130 mechanics from Swedish union IF Metall downed tools in protest.  They were subsequently joined by Swedish dockworkers and other employees in Tesla’s local servicing and distribution network.

    Collective bargaining agreements between labour and employers’ organisations are a longstanding and fundamental component of Nordic economies.  The initial industrial action by the mechanics was swiftly followed by sympathy strikes involving the Swedish subsidiary of Hydro Extrusions, which supplies Tesla with aluminium parts, and the Swedish postal service, which blocked license plate deliveries for the firm’s vehicles.  The dispute has since crossed borders, with trade unions in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden announcing sympathy strikes aimed at disrupting the onward distribution of Tesla vehicles and components to Sweden.

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    Tesla facing battle with unions on many fronts

    Tesla claims that its pay and benefits are competitive and maintains a hard line company-wide policy against unions.  It remains the only car manufacturer in the United States whose workforce is not represented by a union, and is currently gearing up for a major battle with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union.  Although Swedish institutional investors appear to be holding their fire so far, two large Danish pension funds announced on 7 December 2023 that they will be selling their Tesla shareholdings.  Both the €12 billion Pædagogernes Pension (PBU) and €40 billion PensionDanmark have reached the conclusion that their engagement efforts with the company have reached a dead-end and are therefore divesting from almost €100m worth of shares.

    Commenting on the exclusion of Tesla shares from PBU’s portfolio, CEO Sune Schackenfeldt said: “Freedom to join trade unions and the right to negotiate wages collectively are part of PBU’s core values and an important element in our adherence to the UN’s Global Compact. We cannot compromise on that.”  PBU has previously sold positions in Amazon, Walmart and Ryanair for similar reasons.  Schackenfeldt expressed disappointment that Tesla’s shortcomings on the “S” of ESG had negated its positive environmental impact.  “It’s a shame, because it’s an exciting and innovative company, which is a significant driving force in the development of electric cars and batteries.  We will investigate how we can possibly continue to contribute to shareholder pressure on Tesla so that they make concessions in relation to basic trade union freedom and labour rights.”

    Image courtesy of Ben Kerckx from Pixabay (edited)
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