But how will Tesla pay its employees? The topic not only arouses the interest of potential job applicants. Politicians and trade unionists also keep a close eye on what the US corporation’s wage practice looks like and whether German collective bargaining standards are observed.
The fact that Tesla wants to avoid the collective bargaining agreement causes displeasure among the workers in the CDU and SPD. The deputy federal chairman of the Christian Democratic Workers’ Union (CDA), Christian Bäumler (CDU), accused the company of damaging the social partnership in Germany. He referred to the tech group Amazonwho operates several logistics centers in Germany, but rejects collective agreements in principle.
“The takeover of the Amazon business model by Tesla is putting the employees in the German automotive industry who are in difficult negotiations about job cuts under further pressure,” Bäumler told Handelsblatt. “Tesla gains dishonest competitive advantages over other automobile manufacturers in Germany.” Against this background, Bäumler demands that the collective wage agreement for the metal and electrical industry be made generally binding, at least in the automotive sector: “Tesla must not become a second Amazon.”
The head of the SPD workers’ wing, Klaus Barthel, saw the problem coming. “We knew what (CEO) Elon Musk thinks of collective agreements,” Barthel told the Handelsblatt. “Numbers about any alleged gross salaries and an ‘orientation’ on the collective agreement are completely worthless, because it depends on the entire framework, i.e. working hours, vacation, bonuses, special benefits.”
Of course, this would put pressure on companies bound by collective agreements. “The wage gap between West and East will continue to widen,” warned Barthel. “Everyone could count on their fingers that this was planned from the start, taking advantage of the labor market situation in the region.”
Economics Minister Steinbach: Social partnership at the appropriate time topic
IG Metall can understand that Tesla needs a “highly motivated workforce” for its factory in Grünheide and wants to offer something in return. The fact that an unskilled person should get 2700 euros for a job only looks good at first glance, said the IG Metall district manager for Berlin-Brandenburg-Saxony, Birgit Dietze. Finally, it also depends on the regulations for working hours, vacation, performance conditions, illness or supplements. Typically this was regulated by collective agreements.
The unionist is also critical of the fact that Tesla only wants to pay based on collective agreements. “That’s exactly the point. The collective agreements regulate working conditions comprehensively and not selectively, ”said Dietze. “This also measures whether the term tariff-oriented actually fits in the end.”
Against this background, the trade unionist Tesla called on not only ecological responsibility for the earth but also social responsibility for society. “Co-determination in Germany is one of the foundations of this economic constitution and has made a significant contribution to the success of German industrial strength,” said Dietze. “Because the involvement of the employee side leads to negotiated results and thus to continuity and ultimately constructive cooperation.”
For Grünheide, however, Tesla would have to become a member of the Association of Metal Employers, which is still open.
Economics Minister Jörg Steinbach (SPD) was optimistic. He found it remarkable that at a time when the speed of the project was criticized, the question of collective bargaining should be clarified “the day before yesterday”. “IG Metall and Tesla will talk about social partnership when the time is right,” said the SPD politician. “And I assume that Tesla will not elude IG Metall’s very good arguments in the end either.”
“The payment is just a blast”
The Greens welcomed the fact that the settlement of Tesla in Grünheide would create “good jobs” in the region. “Good wages are not enough,” said the labor market expert of the parliamentary group, Beate Müller-Gemmeke. The tried and tested standards in the German automotive industry “also inseparably include collective agreements and participation in works councils and supervisory boards,” she emphasized. With this model of the social market economy, German industry has done very well for decades. “Tesla should definitely take the same path.”
One unknown so far is the number of vacation days and working hours. In the west German metal industry the 35-hour week applies, in the east the 38-hour week.
In an interview with Handelsblatt, the employment agency chief Freyer stated that the employees in Grünheide will mainly be recruited from the unemployed and job changers. For Tesla, it is not a no-go to hire someone who has been out of work for a long time or who has not completed vocational training. These people expect a starting salary of 2700 euros. Freyer is convinced that “the payment is simply a blast.” Relevant vocational training starts at around 3500 euros gross monthly salary.
Given such salary prospects, the Union’s business wing cannot understand the excitement. “It is good news for all job seekers in the region that Tesla promises such good wages regardless of trade unions and collective bargaining agreements,” said Christian von Stetten, a member of the CDU Bundestag and chairman of the SME parliamentary group.
The labor market policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group, Johannes Vogel, pointed out that it was up to Tesla whether a collective agreement would apply as long as the company adhered to the law. “Of course, Tesla also has to be competitive when it comes to finding good people, and that’s not possible in industry in Germany without good wages,” said Vogel.
DaimlerManager switches to Tesla
If, like at Tesla, there are apparently well-paid jobs for people returning to the labor market, then that’s all the better. “I also tend not to believe that the German auto industry is afraid of certain salary groups at Tesla,” added the FDP politician. “Tesla challenges the German carmaker as a whole.”
In business it is said that at least the accusation that Tesla is engaged in wage dumping does not apply. The car expert Ferdinand Dudenhöffer also sees Tesla as having an advantage over German car companies when it comes to paying his employees at the Grünheide site. CEO Elon Musk has a great interest in vertical integration and the leap in innovation that he achieves with his employees. “That’s why Musk is not a fan of industry-wide agreements and collective agreements and detail-obsessed, union-coordinated workplace groups.”
Employees at Tesla see the opportunity to make a difference. That is exactly what is putting the conventional carmakers under pressure. Only a few days ago it became known that the head of the Daimler plant in Berlin and Hamburg, René Reif, is expected to switch to Tesla in early 2021.
Because of the corona pandemic, Daimler and other companies may face severe cuts. The Mercedes-Benz-Werk in Berlin-Marienfelde is the oldest manufacturing plant of the Daimler Group and with 2500 employees one of the largest industrial employers in the Berlin-Brandenburg region. The employees produce engines, engine components and transmissions. IG Metall is worried that parts of its production will be shut down.
Also the engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce wants to cut 550 jobs at its Dahlewitz location in Brandenburg as a result of the corona crisis. The company announced this in July. Rolls-Royce is currently in negotiations with the works council. The Potsdam Chamber of Commerce and Industry called the announcement painful. It shows “with what force the local economy was hit by the corona pandemic”.
This development plays into the hands of Tesla and its new plant in Grünheide. “The settlement will not only bring many jobs to the region, but above all well-paid jobs in an industry of the future,” said Freyer, the head of the employment agency. Tesla not only offers work for many people in Brandenburg, but also for people in regions where automobile manufacturers and suppliers are currently having problems. But nobody is being lured away.
Before the corona pandemic, Brandenburg had more of a skilled worker problem. Just a year ago, the chambers of industry and commerce reported massive problems in filling vacancies and training positions. In addition, around one in four employees subject to social security contributions will retire in the coming years. Of the 855,400 employees subject to social security contributions, just under 207,000 are between 55 and 65 years old, according to the Berlin-Brandenburg business association (UVB).
More: “The payment is simply a blast” – Interview with Jochem Freyer, head of the Frankfurt an der Oder employment agency