Tesla Germany staff to elect new works council next week

By Thomson Reuters Mar 15, 2024 | 10:52 AM

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Staff at Tesla’s plant near Berlin will elect a new works council next week, when Germany’s top union IG Metall hopes to gain greater influence at the U.S. carmaker.

A suspected arson attack caused production at the plant to be halted for a week earlier this month, prompting Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk to visit this week.

The elections for the new works council, to be held March 18-20, are aimed at filling 39 seats, according to IG Metall, which has put forward 106 candidates in an attempt to get a majority.

That would enable it to elect the council’s chairperson and gain greater control over issues such as pay and working conditions, areas where the union has taken issue with the U.S. carmaker known for its critical stance towards unions.

Michaela Schmitz, the plant’s current works council head, told Reuters in e-mailed comments that much had been achieved over the last two years, including pay increases of up to 18%, improvements in occupational health and safety and benefits, including bike sharing and free bus rides.

“All of the aforementioned successes were achieved without the union or a collective bargaining agreement, quickly, easily and customised to Giga Berlin,” she said, adding that meant there was no need for “external influences in the future” – implying IG Metall.

In October, Tesla rejected IG Metall claims that health and safety provisions at its gigafactory near Berlin were inadequate, saying protecting workers was top priority.

The company also last year raised salaries for the plant’s 12,500 workers, which regional IG Metall head Dirk Schulze welcomed at the time, while still calling for better working conditions at the plant.

(Reporting by Christoph Steitz; editing by Barbara Lewis)