The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union is calling for an investigation into how thousands of cars containing asbestos came to be imported into the country.
Ateco Automotive has recalled almost 25,000 Great Wall and Chery Chinese cars after asbestos was found in the engine and exhaust gaskets.
Ateco Automotive is asking owners to return the cars to their dealership.
It says the asbestos is bound into gaskets in the engine and exhaust system and does not present any risk to consumers during use of the vehicle.
"We'll be writing to all owners very soon to explain the situation for their specific vehicle," Daniel Cotterill from Ateco Automotive said.
"Included in that information will be a risk assessment done by an independent occupational health and safety consultant that outlines the risk to drivers and passengers from the asbestos in these gaskets as being negligible."
Consumers are advised not to perform do-it-yourself maintenance that might disturb the gaskets.
Audio: AMWU demands prosecution (PM)
Mr Cotterill said the company did make an effort to ensure the cars were safe and complied with Australian standards.
"We did ask the manufacturers of these vehicles before we commenced to import or distribute them whether or not they complied with Australian standards and specifically whether or not they contained asbestos in any of their components and we were given a written assurance that they didn't," he said.
"We're very surprised and disappointed with this situation. It's a difficult situation - not one of our making, and not one that we are at all satisfied or happy with."
Almost 30 different gaskets have been found to contain asbestos, and almost 25,000 Chery and Great Wall cars are now being recalled.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is monitoring the recall and says the Chery J-1 model and newly imported stock of both brands are not affected by the recall.
AMWU national secretary Paul Bastian says it is unacceptable these vehicles were allowed into Australia and the manufacturer should be prosecuted.
"What is the Government and customs going to do to ensure this doesn't happen again?" he said.
"At the very least there needs to be prosecution of those who are found to import products or components containing asbestos in breach of our regulations."
Mr Bastian says the mechanics now removing the asbestos must be properly protected.
"It is unacceptable that we have a situation here where the quality control is so poor that we have so many vehicles now containing asbestos that now have to be recalled and the asbestos removed," he said.
"Now we want to make sure that all the asbestos components are removed.
"It will not be good enough to have some remain in situ."
Deputy chairwoman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Delia Rickard said the primary offer is for people to have the parts replaced as part of the normally scheduled servicing.
"Ninety-nine per cent of these cars are still under warranty," she said.
"The best evidence that we have from the scientific experts is that unless someone sort of mechanically abraded the gasket, there is minimal risk."
Topics: unions, manufacturing, asbestos, australia, china
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