Tesla wins interim decision against Swedish state over car number plates

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Elon Musk scored an initial victory in his labor fight with Swedish authorities, with Tesla obtaining a temporary court ruling on Monday that forces the state to hand over registration plates for its new cars.

In a day full of legal drama, Tesla filed a dual lawsuit against the Swedish Transport Agency and the National Postal Service over their refusal to hand out number plates for its cars due to the actions of postal workers in sympathy with a strike among the automaker’s mechanics.

The transit agency said late Monday that an interim ruling from the court in Norrköping ruled that it must allow Tesla to collect plates directly from its offices within the next seven days.

The agency said it would study the decision, but it was too early to determine the consequences.

The automaker sued the agency for allowing it to collect registration plates for new vehicles directly instead of having to receive them through the mail. Musk, CEO of Tesla, described preventing postal workers from handing out registration licenses as “madness.”

“We are pleased that with this decision, Tesla can continue to offer new cars to our customers,” Tesla said.

The lawsuit, filed in the Norrköping District Court on Monday, called for the cancellation of “the registration plates of vehicles owned by Tesla. . . . that have come into Tesla’s possession,” according to a copy seen by the Financial Times.

The automaker is also suing PostNord, urging the Solna District Court to order the release of all packages addressed to the automaker.

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The lawsuits represent an escalation of Tesla’s anger over the Swedish strike and with a growing number of sympathy actions by other workers increasingly hurting the electric car maker’s business there.

About 130 mechanics in Sweden, who belong to the IF Metall union, went on strike last month after Tesla rejected their request for collective bargaining.

Swedish unions say Tesla needs to sign a collective agreement as almost all companies in the country do, meaning wages and working conditions are jointly determined in negotiations between unions and employers’ organisations.

Postal workers who deliver parts and registration plates, janitors who clean Tesla dealerships, and dock workers who unload their cars have all since refused to work with the American brand.

Musk is a vocal critic of unions and has managed to avoid collective bargaining in his global operations, including in Germany where he opened a factory.

Tesla does not have any manufacturing in Sweden, but the strike began to have an impact after a factory that makes parts for its cars halted production on Friday in support of the strikes.

Unlike Germany and many other countries, such acts of sympathy are allowed in Sweden.

The Swedish Transport Agency has a contract with PostNord, partly owned by the Swedish state, to deliver all its mail and said it could not send it with an alternative company.

Tesla, which wants to obtain the registration plates directly from the transit agency, called its actions a “discriminatory attack” that was “deeply damaging.” “This action cannot be described in any other way than as a unique attack on a company operating in Sweden,” the lawsuit added.

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She added that PostNord’s actions in not delivering the plates was a “targeted and unlawful attack” on Tesla.

In the lawsuit, Tesla accuses PostNord of acting against the Constitution, arguing that the postal workers’ acts of compassion conflict with the company’s commitment to fulfilling the “socially significant” mission of delivering mail.

Seiko, the Swedish trade union that includes postal workers, said it viewed the lawsuit “as a sign that Tesla has not been able to circumvent our compassion measures.”

She added: “There is an easy way for Tesla to solve this problem, which is to sign a collective agreement with IF Metal.”

PostNord did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Additional reporting by Peter Campbell in London

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