Tesla fired between 400 and 700 people after completing an employee evaluation review earlier this month, according to a report Friday evening from The San Jose Mercury News.
The Silicon Valley company confirmed the cuts Saturday in a statement, but neglected to disclose how many employees were release. But current and former Tesla employees estimate 400 to 700 people have lost their jobs – administrative workers, sales jobs, and manufacturers are among those jettisoned.
Tesla’s job cuts have come as the company attempts to stamp down claims employees who are working to produce the Model 3 are being overworked and underpaid.
The company managed to build a mere 260 Model 3s between July and September, a number well below the 1,500 Tesla promised before the end of the fourth quarter. Total orders for the supposedly wallet-friendly vehicle tumbled to 455,000 from a high of 518,000.
Production on the highly touted vehicle was expected to expand from 100 cars in August to 1,500 in September, and plateau to 20,000 per month in December. CEO Elon Musk promised to eventually produce 20,000 cars per month. But Tesla’s decision to fire scores of employees could complicate that agenda, as well as ignite more calls for the company to unionize.
One employee, Jose Moran, a production assistant with the company, wrote in an editorial in February that Tesla’s primary California factory’s “machinery is often not ergonomically compatible with our bodies,” and requires “too much twisting and turning and extra physical movement to do jobs that could be simplified if workers’ input were welcomed.”
He also claimed that his colleagues were often faced with “excessive mandatory overtime” and earned paltry wages compared to the national average of $25.58 hourly for most autoworkers in the U.S. Tesla offers a $21-an-hour wage.
Musk, who claims Tesla is “union neutral,” accused Moran earlier this year of being a union stooge paid to “agitate for a union.” The United Autoworkers (UAW) would later refute Musk’s claims, with officials telling reporters that Moran “is not and has not been paid by the UAW.”
Democratic legislators in California, meanwhile, chose to throw their lot in with the UAW in September and tossed electric vehicle behemoth Tesla to the wolves.
They recently created a program requiring manufacturers verify that they are “fair and responsible in their treatment of workers” before they can take advantage of a $2,500 rebate encouraging citizens to buy Tesla vehicles.
The legislation was a shot across the bow of Tesla, which relies heavily on a $82.5 million subsidy from the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project.
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