Sweden sides with Tesla, says transport agency must deliver plates or pay up

Tesla won a small battle against Swedish union workers fighting for collective bargaining rights, but the war will continue.

A Swedish court ruled Monday that the country's transport authority has to get Tesla its license plates, which are being blocked by striking postal workers, or pay up, the Aftonbladet newspaper reported. Workers for PostNord, Sweden's postal authority, had stopped delivering plates for Tesla's new cars in an attempt to force Tesla to sign a collective bargaining agreement for mechanics in the country.

The decision came within a few hours of Tesla filing suit against the Swedish Transport Agency and state-run PostNord. Tesla said it was suing the agency because not accessing registration plates "constitutes an unlawful discriminatory attack directed at Tesla."

In response to the swift ruling in Tesla's favor, CEO Elon Musk posted on X thanking the country.

The decision is a blow to the Swedish labor movement, which relies on strong national support for collective bargaining agreements. More than 90% of workers have collective bargaining rights, and the system has led to a relatively peaceful industrial model with far fewer strikes from wage-earners.

That is starting to change with the addition of Tesla. The automaker doesn't make cars in Sweden, but it has workshops to service cars there. In mid-November, Tesla rejected a plea from 130 mechanics to collectively bargain, so they geared up to strike. Other Swedish unions in different sectors came out in solidarity. Mail and delivery workers, cleaners, car painters and dockworkers have all refused to work with Tesla products, and a Stockholm taxi company stopped buying new Teslas for its fleet.

PostNord workers joined the fight on November 20, and the transport agency refused to deliver the plates by other means because it was contractually bound to use PostNord.

Norrköping district court said the agency must find a way to get the plates to Tesla within seven days or pay a fine of 1 million Swedish crowns (~$96,000).

The district court, the transport agency and Tesla could not be reached in time to comment.

It's not the end of the fight in Sweden against Tesla. The trade union IF Metall put mechanics on strike on October 27 and is refusing to service Tesla's cars after years of calls on Tesla to engage in collective bargaining talks have gone unanswered. Tesla is famously anti-union and has a policy of not signing collective bargaining agreements. The automaker says its employees have as good, if not better, terms than those demanded by IF Metall.

Meanwhile in the U.S., the United Auto Workers union had been striking against the Detroit Big Three automakers -- Stellantis, Ford and General Motors -- and recently reached a deal with all three at significant cost to the automakers.