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Tesla factory in Grünheide: The company rejects an "atmosphere of fear"

Photo: Patrick Pleul / dpa

The accusations are fierce, now Tesla is defending itself. The U.S. electric car manufacturer has rejected allegations of a lack of occupational health and safety at its factory in Grünheide near Berlin as inaccurate.

"For us at Gigafactory Berlin Brandenburg, the health protection of our employees is our top priority, and thus also occupational safety," the company said in response to an inquiry. All workplaces would be evaluated on the basis of standardised risk assessments. The resulting measures would be implemented. All employees have the necessary work and safety clothing and are trained in protective measures.

At the end of September, the »Stern« had reported on a strikingly large number of work accidents at the Tesla factory in Grünheide near Berlin. Tesla reported 190 reportable accidents between June and November 2022. According to the German Employers' Liability Insurance Association for Wood and Metal, 2022 reportable accidents per 16 employees occurred statistically at car manufacturers and suppliers in 1000. If Tesla's workforce of around 2022 employees for May 4000 were taken as a basis, statistically speaking, 64 reportable accidents would be normal - significantly fewer than the 190 researched by Stern. However, the cooperative did not give any concrete figures for Tesla.

Sick leave of around 30 percent?

Tesla has now announced that accidents are analyzed and evaluated by qualified personnel. Appropriate precautionary measures or necessary changes would then be implemented. Compliance with occupational health and safety measures throughout the factory is frequently and regularly checked by the competent authorities. The opposition Left faction in the Brandenburg state parliament wants to make the number of occupational accidents in the Tesla factory an issue next week in a current hour of the state parliament.

The factory in Grünheide, Brandenburg, was opened in March 2022. According to the company's latest information, about 11,000 employees now work there. Environmentalists and nature conservationists see great risks, also because part of the factory site is located in the water protection area. Employees also pointed to serious deficiencies in health and safety at work, which led to sick leave of up to around 30 percent and a high number of accidents at work, as IG Metall further announced.

On Monday, according to IG Metall, more than 1000,<> workers had jointly demanded better working conditions in a first-time action in the factory. They had shown themselves in the night and morning shift with IG Metall stickers on T-shirts, a spokesman for the union said. According to the union, it read: "Together for safe and fair work at Tesla." The district manager of IG Metall Berlin-Brandenburg-Saxony, Dirk Schulze, said: "When individuals demand improvements, they either get into trouble or nothing happens. Together, however, it is possible to enforce demands.«

According to IG Metall, numerous Tesla workers complain about poor working conditions in talks with the union. According to the survey, they consider the workload to be extreme due to short cycle times, staff shortages and exaggerated production targets. IG Metall spoke of an "atmosphere of fear," which Tesla rejected – as well as the union's account of the action in the factory.