Tesla scores a major victory in its 'insane' war against Sweden's labor unions and government over a 'very serious' threat to its business



A Swedish county court issued a temporary injunction granting Tesla the right to take delivery of license plates for its cars, potentially offering the company a partial reprieve from a spiraling strike.

The monthlong walkout by members of an industrial union at seven Tesla-owned repair shops in Sweden has become a veritable storm of industrial action, with eight other unions throwing their weight behind workers’ demands for a collective bargaining agreement. That’s meant the initial action involving a share of about 130 Tesla workers may now be backed by thousands of Swedish union members.

Since last week, sympathy action among postal workers have disrupted the Swedish Transport Agency’s deliveries of license plates to Tesla, as current regulations require them to be shipped via the Swedish postal service, PostNord AB.

Tesla filed two separate suits Monday calling on courts to force the transport agency to hand over license plates directly, or deliver them to the company by other means. The agency confirmed it received the temporary injunction from the Norrköping District Court and that its supplier is prepared to hand over the plates directly.

“The agency now needs to look into the decision and what consequences it might have for us and what we have to take into account to execute the decision,” Anna Berggrund, the director of the department of vehicle information, said in a statement. “It is too early to say what that would mean in further detail.”

The order comes days after Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk called the Swedish labor actions “insane.” The injunction says the agency must provide Tesla with license plates within seven days or otherwise be fined 1 million Swedish kronor ($96,000).

While the injunction may temporarily give Tesla the right to receive its license plates by means other than the nation’s postal service, the process is regulated by a detailed government ordinance, the agency said. Depending on the future outcome of the suit, the ordinance may have to be changed.

In its other lawsuit, which is still awaiting a court ruling, Tesla claims that PostNord’s failure to deliver mail and deliveries, including license plates, are “very serious, nearly system threatening.” PostNord has said it has no power in the matter.

The government is “very limited” in its ability to change government ordinances that may be the issue of ongoing labor market conflicts, Petra Herzfeld Olsson, professor in labor law at Stockholm University, said in an interview. She hasn’t seen the specific ordinance governing the transport agency.

Herzfeld Olsson said the most recent time the government did anything like this was in 1971, when wide-ranging strikes among public-sector employees paralyzed the Swedish bureaucracy, including welfare systems. She said Swedish labor unions have constitutional rights to strike and execute secondary sympathy actions.

Swedish and other Scandinavian labor unions have wide-ranging rights to exert pressure when their peers enter conflicts with companies. Other actions currently affecting Tesla include a blockade among dockworkers who are refusing to load or unload the company’s cars cars at Swedish ports. Trash pickups and electrical work at Tesla Supercharger stations also are hindered.

Tesla’s Model Y is the country’s best-selling vehicle this year, with 14,078 registered, according to Mobility Sweden. The company has sold another 2,600 Model 3 and Model S sedans combined through last month.

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