IG Metall, Germany’s biggest union, has its sights on setting up a works council at Tesla’s upcoming gigafactory in Gruenheide, near Berlin.
“If the team for Gruenheide is on board we will establish a works council with the employees and organize them,” Joerg Hofmann, the union’s head, told Reuters.
IG Metall is the top metalworkers’ union in Germany and the largest union in the country, but Hofmann says he has not spoken to Tesla CEO Elon Musk yet.
“So far I have not been in contact with Elon Musk,” he said. “Why should I be, or he? Tesla is now hiring in Gruenheide, in the land of co-determination and collective bargaining agreements. Tesla’s management knows this.”
Hofmann added, though, that talks with Tesla officials have been difficult as a result of a number of leadership changes. The executive overseeing construction at the gigafactory left his position recently, a source told Reuters. The head of Tesla’s German operation left his position a year earlier.
Indeed, Tesla is facing scrutiny for its employment practices in the country and is under investigation for allegedly not paying construction workers at the plant Germany’s minimum wage. The plant is also being investigated for an environmental issue.
Hofmann, though, said he and IG Metall welcomed Tesla’s entry into Germany: “It’s the first big investment in a new factory in the automotive sector since the turn of the millennium.”
Between COVID-related delays and a two-week work stoppage due to pipes that might leak wastewater, Tesla has had to delay the opening of its German factory. The company recently said that it has moved the plant’s deadline by six months, thus pushing back the opening date to January 2022.