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As Tesla works to get its mammoth new factory in Germany up and running by the summer, disturbing delicate reptile habitats may be the least of Elon Musk’s worries.
After sparring with locals over everything from water supply to deforestation, there may be an even larger threat looming: Germany’s largest union.
Tesla hasn’t made many friends of labor activists in the US, and the 2.2-million-strong IG Metall isn’t likely to go down without a fight, experts told Insider. A prolonged battle over contracts with the group — which wields considerable political influence and social capital — could derail Tesla’s ambitious plans for the European market.
A standoff over contracts
Virtually every car company operating in Germany is a member of an employers’ association, and IG Metall — which represents metalworkers in the auto industry and other sectors — negotiates industry-wide contracts with the group instead of bargaining with each company individually. That system gives the country’s unions considerably more negotiating power than their US counterparts, which vote to unionize plant by plant.
But there’s a catch — joining the association isn’t required by law, it’s only customary. And Tesla has made every indication it’s not interested in following that deep-rooted norm.
The carmaker has caught heat for union-busting tactics in the US — the National Labor Relations Board ruled in March that Musk must delete an anti-union tweet and reinstate a fired employee who was part of an organizing drive — and it has signaled it’s not keen on working with unions in Germany either.
Tesla ignored a letter from IG Metall inviting a dialogue last year. And it went to great lengths to pacify disgruntled union members at Tesla Grohmann Automation, an engineering firm it acquired in 2016, without entering the industry’s collective agreement. Instead, the carmaker fended off a strike by giving workers a deal that was comparable to the industry-wide wage (plus stock options).
It could try to pull the same play at Gigafactory Berlin.
The stakes are high for IG Metall
But IG Metall likely wants to avoid that scenario at all costs, Stephen Silvia, a professor at American University whose research focuses on comparative labor relations, told Insider.
Allowing a massive non-union plant to build cars in Germany would set the dangerous precedent that companies don’t need to engage in collective bargaining, he said. It would also mean thousands of members would potentially go without the contractually enforced job security, wages, …read more
Source:: Business Insider