GRUENHEIDE, Germany -- Tesla workers at the automaker's German plant are joining the IG Metall union in rising numbers over working conditions, the union said.
Tesla employees are complaining about safety hazards, including extreme workloads due to staff shortages and overly ambitious production targets, IG Metall said.
Lack of staff and inadequate safety provisions in the workplace were leading to a high number of accidents at work, and it was not rare that around 30 percent of workers were signed off sick, the union said.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the union's claims and Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The plant, which is located just outside of Berlin in Gruenheide, builds the Model Y.
More than 1,000 staff showed up at the plant on Monday near Berlin wearing stickers calling for "safe and fair work," IG Metall said. About 12,000 people work at the site.
On Sunday night, Tesla managers invited their teams to a meeting with "free food and a surprise" to discuss IG Metall's presence on the site, stating: "We want to speak with you and your teams about the questionable methods and actual goals of IG Metall," according to a copy of the email seen by Reuters.
Dirk Schulze, a local IG Metall official, said: "No one in Germany needs to hide their union membership. The German Constitution gives all employees the right to organize in a union and to openly stand up for it in the workplace — this also applies at Tesla."
The union said it does not share specific membership numbers for companies as a matter of course, but that it has seen a steep rise in the number of new members at Tesla.
Reuters spoke to twelve workers at the factory on Monday.
While four said they were satisfied with working conditions, eight said pressure was too high, with some reporting high incidence of accidents and issues with receiving overtime pay. Two workers said they were not allowed to speak to the media.
"Speed is not compatible with safety," said one 56-year-old worker from Poland, who declined to be named, adding there were too few workers to meet targets and that he would seek a new job next year if conditions did not improve.
Unrest amid EV shift
A growing number of auto-industry workers are demanding better pay and job security in the shift to electric vehicles.
The United Auto Workers union has launched a major strike targeting General Motors, Ford and Stellantis in the U.S., halting output at several factories. The concern is that EVs, which require fewer moving parts and workers to make, will cost jobs and reduce wages.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has shown little tolerance for unions. A day after a group of Tesla workers in Buffalo, New York, launched a unionization campaign early this year, the automaker terminated them.
Tesla has lost several National Labor Relations Board rulings the last couple years, including one in August 2022 related to restricting employees from wearing pro-union t-shirts.
In Germany, the company has so far refused to sign the kind of wage agreements that are standard in Europe's biggest economy, putting the automaker on a collision course with the 2.2 million-member IG Metall.
Bloomberg contributed to this report