Labor union accused of hiding asbestos risks at commercial bakeries

Commercial Bakery (Photo: Adam K. Thomas/Wikimedia Commons)Commercial Bakery (Photo: Adam K. Thomas/Wikimedia Commons)

Trade union FNV knew for years that commercial bakers were exposed to asbestos that was processed in furnaces, but chose to hide that information, according to television program Zembla. The union vehemently denies these accusations, NOS reports.

According to the program, the FNV sector council received a report of a problem with asbestos in an oven of the firm Bakkersland in Wateringen in January 2012. "We also had a major fault with the oven and shut down everything as a precaution, in connection with asbestos. The oven was packed up and the production was moved elsewhere", according to a memo Zembla has in its possession.

In July 2013, during an FNV sector council meeting, it was revealed that asbestos was released in more bakeries, including in Zwanenburg and Rotterdam. During this meeting it was said that problems with asbestos in bakery ovens must not come out, according to Zembla. A FNV director also spoke about a confidentiality agreement made with Bakkersland on not revealing the asbestos information. Sources told Zembla that no minutes were taken during this meeting. But one person made their own notes, and these suggested that Bakkersland wanted to keep the situation "under wraps" and that the union helped with a media silence, in an effort not to jeopardize jobs.

Wim van der Linden, chairman of the sector council, eventually confirmed the state of affairs to Zembla.

The union vehemently denies any sort of cover-up. A spokesperson stated that the sector council decided not to cause unnecessary turmoil. "Immediately after the problems at Bakkersland became known, our manager was on top of it. We requested all reports and had them assessed by an expert. We came to the conclusion that there were no risks to the staff and then decided to give it no further publicity. There was no reason for concern." The Bakkersland staff also received a letter informing them of the asbestos problems in June 2013.