Like Elon Musk Despite its attempts to manage Twitter after mass layoffs in November, its flagship company Tesla is also facing staffing problems globally, with job openings doubling since mid-June, coupled with exits at its newest gigafactory in Germany.
When the gigafactory opened in Berlin in March, it aimed to produce 5,000 vehicles a week by the end of this year. But it’s still a long way from meeting its goals after major recruitment struggles – the company has so far managed to hire just 7,000 people out of a planned 12,000. This lack of staff is accompanied by missed ambitious production targets; in 2022, Musk told German media that he expected to build half a million Teslas in Berlin by 2022.
The company is also losing experienced staff, say former and current employees of the gigafactory. They say current staff are leaving jobs because of low and unequal pay and inexperienced management in the highly competitive German manufacturing sector. Tesla did not respond to WIRED’s requests for comment.
A current employee, who asked for anonymity for fear of losing his job, described the Berlin gigafactory as “total chaos.” “Some people are sick longer than they have worked. There are people I haven’t seen work for three weeks in six months. Many people are called in sick because the motivation is not there,” they say, blaming poor working conditions. The exits are temporary and permanent employees who have been there for more than a year, hired before the gigafactory opened, they claim.
Globally, Tesla hit a record number of job openings for the year in November, with nearly 7,500 jobs. That is a doubling of the messages in mid-June, according to data from its own website. While most of these job openings were in the US, Germany came in second, with 386 job openings advertised at the Berlin factory on November 11, including one for a “high-volume recruiter”.
Local labor specialists say Tesla is unlikely to be able to find more qualified staff to fill the gap, as it is seen as an unattractive employer in Germany’s heavily unionized auto sector and competes with rival automaker Volkswagen for skilled workers in the Berlin Area. The Job Center in nearby Frankfurt (Oder) said on Oct. 4 that Tesla had already hired 1,000 formerly unemployed workers, calling it “the largest hiring project since reunification,” and some reports say Tesla is already the largest private employer in Brandenburg.
According to the German metal trade union IG Metall, Tesla pays 20 percent less than comparable companies based on employee contracts and job descriptions. IG Metall representative Birgit Dietze wrote in a press release in June, “We know from active IG Metall members that recruitment is not progressing at the planned pace.”
Holger Bonin, director of research at the Institute of Labor Economics, based in Bonn, said this was a problem with the country’s specialist job market at large, not helped by the fact that many qualified workers in the Berlin region can easily commute to Volkswagen’s main factory in Wolfsburg instead.