The Norwegian Working Environment Authority still does not intervene at Schiphol and KLM: ‘Takes an unusually long time’ – Zembla

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More than a year after the Zembla broadcast ‘Sick of Schiphol’ about platform employees’ poor working conditions, the Norwegian Labor and Welfare the airport, still no action. The Zembla study shows that around 20,000 workers are inhaling ultrafine particles and other toxic substances because they work unprotected on the platform in the emissions from running aircraft engines. Therefore, shortly after the broadcast, in March last year, the authority sent an enforcement letter, which should lead to a final demand, but that demand has still not been made, shows a tour of all parties involved. A spokesman for the authority admits that this is very unusual.

Nothing has changed for the employees. They still run an increased risk of heart problems and lung cancer due to the emission of ultrafine particles on the platform.

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After the broadcast last year, the Social and Employment Authority confirmed to Zembla that an investigation had been launched into the danger of ultrafine dust for apron employees at Schiphol. Many employees have health problems, such as chronic colds, heart problems and cancer. The inspectorate said at the time: “We are now investigating whether employees are working safely”. According to a spokesman for the authority, the investigation would be completed in early 2022.

Subsequently, Schiphol and nine operating companies, including KLM, received an enforcement letter from the Norwegian Labor Inspectorate in mid-March last year. The companies then had two weeks to respond to the letter, after which the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority would announce its final demand to improve the employees’ working conditions. Sources tell Zembla that it would be a far-reaching requirement, where the most drastic measure would be towing the aircraft and thus reduce the emission of ultrafine particles on the apron.

Unusually long

Despite the great concerns about the employees’ health, three quarters of a century later there is still no final demand. The Norwegian Working Environment Authority admits in a reply that it is very unusual that it takes so long before a claim is formulated. “I can’t deny that,” says the spokesman.

Schiphol and the handling companies have been repeatedly suspended by the labor inspectorate. For example, a spokesperson for the Norwegian Labor Inspectorate told Zembla in June last year: “Given the volume of statements, the assessment and our reasoning are taking more time than usual. They (the companies, ed.) also need information from third parties on a number of elements in order to make an assessment. The planning is now that we can hopefully send the final requirement in the second week of June.” The intended deadline and subsequent deadlines were not met.

To this day, there is still no final requirement from the labor inspectorate, and platform employees still run an increased health risk. “We are now in the process of responding to the statement. It is taking longer than we had expected, but we would like to substantiate our claim in this complicated case, says a spokesperson for the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority to Zembla.

Sensitive file

Zembla investigative journalist Roelof Bosma tells De Nieuws BV that he finds it remarkable that there is still no final demand: “Usually something like this is arranged within two to four weeks. Then there will be a final demand from the labor inspectorate, and it can be enforced.”

According to Bosma, it is unique that the companies still have time to respond to the enforcement letter to this day. “I’ve never experienced this before,” he says. “This speaks volumes about the sensitivity of this file, the interests and the lobby.”

The trade union FNV also recognizes that the procedure takes a long time. “We have the impression that the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority is letting this take so long because they are looking for quality,” says a spokesman. Next week there will be a meeting between the FNV and the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority.

Zembla investigative journalist Roelof Bosma spoke in Nieuws BV about the unusually long process.

The Ministry shocked

Previously, we revealed that the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management believes that KLM is not doing enough to protect its employees from the release of toxic exhaust gases from aircraft. This appears from internal documents.

Among other things, this makes it clear that the ministry is ‘shocked’ by the Zembla broadcast. In addition, the ministry appears to be unhappy with ‘KLM’s reticent attitude’.

Sick of Schiphol

In the broadcast ‘Sick of Schiphol’, Zembla reveals that 15 years ago Schiphol and KLM were warned by their own employment services about the increased health risk for platform employees.

Gerben de Jong, who is on the platform every day as manager of KLM, explains in the broadcast what the appalling consequences are for the platform employees. “I don’t know a colleague or employee at Schiphol with a different cause of death than cancer,” he says.

Watch the broadcast ‘Sick from Schiphol’ here:

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