Tesla Fires 30 Employees From Autopilot Team at New York Gigafactory; Denies Targeting Trade Union Efforts

Tesla has denied employees' claims that 30 staffers were fired over attempts to form a workers' union. The Elon Musk-run electric car company responded to the charges on Thursday, saying that the termination fo some employees in the Autopilot team was part of the review of employees' performance.

Tesla EV Model 3s
Tesla EV Model 3s Website/Tesla

Hours earlier, news broke that Tesla had fired more than 30 employees from its New York Gigafactory. The terminated employees said the move came following the attempts to form a workers' union. A complaint was filed by the employees with the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

"We're angry. This won't slow us down. This won't stop us ... They want us to be scared, but I think they just started a stampede," said Sara Costantino, a Tesla employee and member of the union's organizing committee, according to CNBC.

Tesla said the decision on letting some employees go was made on February 5, which was before the employees announced the union campaign. Tesla added that the terminations in the Autopilot team amounted to about 4 percent of the workers in that team.

In a blog post titled 'In Response to False Allegations', Tesla said the sacking was purely based on performance assessment. The blog also noted that the Autopilot team's strength has increased in the last six months from 437 employees to around 675 employees.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveils a suit of batteries for homes, businesses, and utilities at Tesla Design Studio in Hawthorne, California, the United States, April 30, 2015. IANS

Meanwhile, the workers had said in the complaint that the 30 employees fired were part of the 25-employee organising committee for the creation of the union. The layoffs came in retaliation for union activity and to discourage union activity, the complaint said.

"This is a form of collective retaliation against the group of workers that started this organizing effort" and is "designed to terrify everyone about potential consequences of them organizing", Workers United organizer Jaz Brisack said, according to IANS.

In the Buffalo facility, which is known as Gigafactory 2, more than 800 analysts work on labelling vision data to train Tesla's Autopilot software.