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Union sets sights on works council at Tesla’s German factory

FRANKFURT — Germany’s largest and most powerful union, IG Metall, has set its sights on setting up a works council at Tesla’s new European factory, its head Joerg Hofmann said.

Tesla plans to build up to 500,000 cars a year at the factory in Gruenheide near Berlin. The EV maker is currently hiring for the plant, which will employ 12,000 people.

Organized labor will be an issue for Tesla in Germany, where unions have significant say over strategic matters.

“So far I have not been in contact with [Tesla CEO] Elon Musk. Tesla is now hiring in Gruenheide, in the land of co-determination and collective bargaining agreements. Tesla’s management knows this,” Hofmann told Reuters.

IG Metall “will establish a works council with employees and organize them,” Hofmann said.

Tesla was not immediately available for comment.

Hofmann said that while meaningful talks with Tesla in Germany were not easy due to numerous leadership changes that have taken place at the automaker, IG Metall welcomed Tesla’s decision to establish itself in Germany.

“It’s the first big investment in a new factory in the automotive sector since the turn of the millennium,” Hofmann said.

He said that finding skilled workers in Germany would be a challenge, adding Tesla will have to adhere to the standards of the local labor market.

Hofmann’s comments came after a report in Business Insider said that German authorities are probing possible violations of labor laws at the Gruenheide site.

Tesla said in April that production was on track to start in late 2021, instead of its earlier target of July. But the factory is not expected to start production until the end of January 2022 due to problems in getting the plant ready for battery pack production and gaining regulatory approval, sources told Automobilwoche, a sister publication of Automotive News Europe.

In October, Tesla’s executive overseeing construction of the Gruenheide factory left his position, a source familiar with the matter said at the time, following the departure of Jochen Rudat, head of Germany, a year earlier.

Germany’s co-determination law allows for works councils to be established at companies if employees agree. Employee representatives sit on the supervisory boards at Volkswagen Group, Daimler and BMW.

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