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Tesla contractor launches probe into pay, conditions for foreign workers

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Marcel Carroll
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HEIKO JUNGE/AFP/Getty Images

PALO ALTO -- A Tesla contractor said Wednesday it may terminate its relationship with a Slovenian company that records show paid as little as $5 an hour to workers expanding the electric car company's Fremont plant.

The statement came after Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in a tweet that his company paid $55 an hour for the work.Eisenmann, a German manufacturer of industrial systems hired by Tesla, announced it would investigate allegations that its subcontractor ISM Vuzem paid a work force of about 140 Eastern European men substandard wages.

LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group

The newspaper's investigation, "The Hidden Workforce Expanding Tesla's Factory," profiled Gregor Lesnik, a construction worker brought in from Slovenia to help build the new high-tech paint shop.

Lesnik sued Vuzem, Eisenmann and Tesla, claiming he and scores of other Eastern European workers were brought to the U.S. on questionable visas and paid substandard wages.

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The complex business arrangement brought several companies together to complete the plant expansion, designed to help Tesla boost manufacturing from about 50,000 vehicles last year to a half-million in 2018.

Vuzem hired Lesnik and the other imported workers to build a ventilation system.Along with his tweet, Musk posted a portion of a letter from Eisenmann President Mark West to Tesla that said Eisenmann and Vuzem agreed to an hourly rate of $55.

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