Tesla wins interim ruling against Swedish government over car number plates

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Elon Musk scored an early victory in his labor conflict with Swedish authorities, as Tesla won an interim court ruling on Monday forcing the state to issue license plates for its new cars.

In a day of high legal drama, Tesla filed twin lawsuits against the Swedish Transport Agency and the national postal service for refusing to issue number plates for its cars over the actions of postal workers in sympathy with a strike by carmakers’ mechanics.

The transport company said late on Monday that an interim ruling by a court in Norrkoping would allow Tesla to collect the plates directly from its offices within the next seven days.

The company said it was studying the decision, but it was too early to say what the ramifications would be.

The carmaker sued the agency to allow it to collect registration plates for new vehicles in person instead of by mail. Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, called it “crazy” for postal workers to block the issuance of registration licenses.

Tesla said: “With this decision, we are pleased that Tesla can continue to deliver new cars to our customers.”

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

The carmaker is suing PostNord, urging the Solna District Court to order the release of all parcels sent to the carmaker.

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The lawsuits add to Tesla’s anger over a Swedish strike and a wider number of sympathetic actions by other workers that are increasingly affecting the electric-car maker’s business there.

About 130 mechanics in Sweden from the IF Metall union went on strike last month after Tesla rejected a request for collective bargaining.

Swedish unions argue that Tesla requires all businesses in the country to sign a collective agreement, meaning wages and working conditions are set jointly in negotiations between unions and employers’ organizations.

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

Musk is a staunch critic of unionization and has managed to avoid collective bargaining in its global operations, including opening a factory in Germany.

Tesla has no production in Sweden, but the strike is starting to have an impact after a factory that makes parts for its cars halted production on Friday in support of the strikes.

Unlike in Germany and many other countries, such compassionate measures are allowed in Sweden.

The Swedish Transport Agency, which has a contract with Postnord, which is partly owned by the Swedish government, will deliver all its mail and says it cannot send it to an alternative company.

Tesla, which wants to collect license plates directly from the transportation company, called its actions “a discriminatory attack” that caused “deep damage.” The lawsuit added: “This action cannot be described as anything other than a personal attack on a company operating in Sweden.”

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It added that PostNord’s actions in not issuing the plates were a “targeted and illegal attack” on Tesla.

Tesla accused PostNord of acting unconstitutionally, arguing that the compassionate action by postal workers ran counter to the company’s duty to fulfill its “socially important” mission of delivering mail.

Sego, the Swedish union that covers postal workers, said it sees the case as “a sign that Tesla cannot avoid our sympathetic action.”

It added: “There is an easy way for Tesla to solve this, and that is to sign a joint venture agreement with IF Metall.”

PostNord and Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Additional reporting by Peter Campbell in London

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