In Gruenheide, Germany, workers at Tesla’s German plant are increasingly joining the IG Metall union due to concerns about working conditions, according to the union. Tesla employees have raised issues about safety hazards, such as extreme workloads caused by staff shortages and overly ambitious production targets. Insufficient staffing and inadequate safety measures in the workplace have resulted in a high number of workplace accidents, with up to 30 percent of employees being signed off sick, as reported by the union. It’s important to note that Reuters has not independently verified these claims, and Tesla has not yet responded to a request for comment.
The Gruenheide plant, situated just outside Berlin, is responsible for manufacturing the Model Y. IG Metall reported that over 1,000 staff members at the facility near Berlin wore stickers calling for “safe and fair work,” out of a total workforce of approximately 12,000 people. On Sunday night, Tesla managers invited their teams to a meeting with “free food and a surprise” to discuss IG Metall’s presence at the site, expressing a desire to address the union’s methods and objectives. This information was based on an email seen by Reuters.
According to Dirk Schulze, a local IG Metall official, German labor laws allow employees to openly express their union membership and stand up for it in the workplace, including at Tesla. Although the union does not typically disclose specific membership numbers for companies, it has observed a significant increase in new members at Tesla.
Reuters interviewed twelve workers at the factory on Monday, with four expressing satisfaction with their working conditions while eight described high levels of pressure, frequent accidents, and problems with receiving overtime pay. Two workers mentioned restrictions on speaking to the media. One worker, a 56-year-old from Poland, emphasized that speed should not compromise safety and noted the need for more staff to meet targets, suggesting that he might seek a new job next year if conditions did not improve.
The current unrest among auto industry workers is linked to the transition to electric vehicles, with demands for better pay and job security on the rise. In the U.S., the United Auto Workers union has initiated a major strike affecting General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis, disrupting production at several factories. There is concern that the shift to electric vehicles, which require fewer components and labor, may result in job losses and lower wages.
Notably, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been known for his opposition to unions. Earlier this year, Tesla terminated a group of workers in Buffalo, New York, after they launched a unionization campaign. Tesla has also faced challenges from the National Labor Relations Board, including a ruling in August 2022 related to restrictions on employees wearing pro-union t-shirts. In Germany, the company has resisted signing standard wage agreements, placing it in conflict with the 2.2 million-member IG Metall.