(Bloomberg) -- Tesla Inc. risks seeing its car deliveries to Sweden halted across the Nordic region, after Swedish unions asked their peers in neighboring countries to help tighten their blockade.
Harbor workers and drivers at the Danish 3F union will in about two weeks stop offloading Sweden-bound cars in Danish harbors and driving them to Sweden, preventing Tesla from circumventing a weeks-long stoppage there. That’s after Swedish unions asked Nordic peers to join the sympathy action.
Read more: How Musk’s Anti-Union Stance Faces Test in Sweden: QuickTake
The Danish union filed a strike warning notice on Dec. 4, it said in a statement on Tuesday. The protest won’t affect Tesla’s operations in Denmark, a spokesperson for the union said by phone.
In Finland, the Transport Workers’ Union will meet on Thursday to decide on the issue, a spokeswoman said by phone, and in Norway, the United Federation of Trade Unions is monitoring the situation, spokesman John Trygve Tollefsen said by phone on Tuesday.
In Sweden, Tesla has for more than a month been locked in a dispute with labor unions after the carmaker repeatedly refused to sign a collective bargaining agreement with IF Metall. The strike has spread through sympathy actions, including stopping the delivery of mail to Tesla as well as trash pickups. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has called the Swedish labor action “insane.”
“Even if you are one of the richest people in the world, you can’t just make your own rules,” Jan Villadsen, the chairman of the 3F union’s transport division, said in the statement. “We have some agreements on the labor market in the Nordics, and you have to comply with them if you want to do business here.”
Sweden is Tesla’s fifth-biggest European market, and signing any agreement with the Swedish unions would set a precedent for the company. Tesla has vehemently opposed unionization efforts in other countries where it operates. Yet collective bargaining agreements are standard practice in Sweden, covering around 90% of all working Swedes.
Tesla has been fighting back in Sweden, filing two lawsuits to limit the conflict’s impact after the delivery of license plates to its new vehicles stopped. In the first, it won a temporary injunction granting it the right to take delivery of license plates directly from the transport agency’s supplier.
In the second case, a Swedish court is expected to rule on an injunction this week on whether the postal service needs to deliver the plates that are currently stuck in the post.
An official request for sympathy action was sent from IF Metall last week to Nordic transport unions, after extensive discussions by the Swedish Transport Workers’ Union with counterparts across the region in the past weeks, spokeswoman Elin Lornbo said by phone on Tuesday.
“We have a very deep relationship with them and encouraged them to initiate blockades at ports in their respective countries since it is an effective and permitted form of sympathy action,” she said.
Should all the Nordic transport unions join the blockade, the main route open to Tesla for imports would be by truck from Germany. That’s at least a five-hour drive, one way, with each truck able to a handful vehicles, compared with up to over a thousand for cargo ships.
Sympathy action by trade unions is an accepted part of the Scandinavian labor market, and cross-border strikes are not unheard of. In 2015, Sweden-based pilots joined a walk-out of Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA’s Norway-based pilots.
“Solidarity is the cornerstone of the trade union movement and extends across national borders,” Villadsen from the Danish union said. “The Swedish workers are currently fighting an incredibly important battle.”
(Updates with potential Nordic action throughout.)
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.