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German labour court finds Tesla broke union election rules

BERLIN (Reuters) - Tesla's works council violated German union election rules, a labour court ruled on Tuesday, in the latest example of the U.S. EV maker clashing with German regulation.

Unions lauded employees two years ago for forming a works council when Tesla was just starting to build its plant near Berlin. They warned the group would be top heavy because only middle and senior management had been hired.

The works council, a group of employees that mediates with management, called a new election this month, asking for candidates to be put forward by Feb. 15, but the labour court ruled on Tuesday this was too soon because German regulation stipulates there should be a two-year gap between election campaigns.

The previous election began on Feb. 28, 2022, meaning Tesla must wait until Feb. 29 to proceed with its plans, the court said, according to media reports from rbb24 and others in the courtroom.

Tesla and its Chief Executive Elon Musk have long criticised German bureaucracy, which Musk once said was at odds with the urgency of fighting climate change.

Musk has also clashed with unions, including in the United States, where he is embroiled in numerous cases around federal labour law.

Works councils are not mandatory in Germany, but they are common particularly in industrial firms and represent a powerful force at rival carmakers including Volkswagen, where the head of the works council sits on the supervisory board.

Tesla's workforce has grown to more than 12,000 from around 2,000 at the time of the previous election. Any full-time worker at the plant for at least six months can stand for election, provided their nomination secures 50 backers.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it will accept the decision or whether its works council will try to appeal.

(Reporting by Victoria Waldersee; editing by Barbara Lewis)