Economy

Tesla: German unions threaten Musk – but he remains stubborn

Tesla boss Elon Musk at an award ceremony in Berlin.

BRITTA PEDERSEN / POOL / AFP via Getty Images

Elon Musk is moving up the list of the richest people at a rapid pace, recently knocking third-place Mark Zuckerberg off the podium – and just a few days later he overtook Bill Gates, who was once the richest person in the world. How long Amazon boss Jeff Bezos can stay on the throne is questionable.

In his quest for ever greater success, however, there is one thing Musk has absolutely no use: unions. But that’s exactly what is now putting a lot of pressure on him in Germany. The reason for this is Musk’s dislike of the costly collective agreements for the employer. The Tesla boss does not want to sign this for the employees who will soon be starting in his Gigafactory in the Brandenburg town of Grünheide near Berlin.

According to “Bloomberg”, this in turn outraged the IG Metall union, which with almost 2.3 million members is the largest employee representation in the country (Verdi has just under two million). Musk ignored a letter from IG Metall in which they pointed out the desire for collective agreements. Then there were protests on the part of the unionists when Tesla poached a Mercedes plant manager from the car factory in Berlin-Marienfelde – he is said to have informed the workforce of his departure with an SMS, as NewsABC.net reported.

Collective agreements “no devil’s work”

Collective agreements are not the work of the devil, but are imperative for good relations between employers and employees, according to trade union circles, as reported by “Bloomberg”. According to this, Christian Bäumler, Vice-Head of the Christian Democratic Workforce (an employee-related association of the CDU), emphasized that it is not a good idea for a car manufacturer to be in permanent conflict with IG Metall. Because they have organizational power, have money and have experience. “She can get through a long fight,” said Bäumler.

Musk, on the other hand, also has a lot of power, a lot of money and a lot of experience, and he has the full support of the Federal Minister of Economics, Peter Altmaier, among others. Among other things, he said that the revolution in the auto industry towards electromobility would never have been possible without Elon Musk.

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