Tue, Oct 29, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Workers face low pay, high risks and gangsters in Fukushima

Concern has been raised over the safety of workers exposed to the highly radioactive environment at the crippled nuclear power plant and of gangster-related groups skimming workers’ wages

By Antoni Slodkowski and Mari Saito  /  Reuters, IWAKI, Japan

Yousuke Minaguchi, a lawyer who has represented Fukushima workers, said the Japanese government has turned a blind eye to the problem of worker exploitation.

“On the surface, they say it is illegal, but in reality they don’t want to do anything. By not punishing anyone, they can keep using a lot of workers cheaply,” he said.

Motegi, who is responsible for Japan’s energy policy and decommissioning of the plant, instructed TEPCO to improve housing for workers. He has said more needs to be done to ensure workers are being treated well.

“To get work done, it’s necessary to cooperate with a large number of companies,” he said. “Making sure that those relations are proper, and that work is moving forward is something we need to keep working on daily.”

FALSIFIED PASSBOOK

Hayashi offers a number of reasons for his decision to head to Fukushima from his home in Nagano, an area in central Japan famous for its ski slopes, where in his youth Hayashi honed his snowboarding skills.

He said he was skeptical of the government’s early claim that the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant was under control and wanted to see it for himself. He had worked in construction, knew how to weld and felt he could contribute.

Like many other workers, Hayashi was initially recruited by a broker. He was placed with RH Kogyo, a subcontractor six levels removed from TEPCO.

When he arrived in Fukushima, Hayashi received instructions from five other firms in addition to the labor broker and RH Kogyo. It was the sixth contractor up the ladder, ABL Co that told him he would be working in a highly radioactive area. ABL reported to Tokyo Energy & Systems, which in Fukushima manages about 200 workers as a first-tier contractor under TEPCO.

Hayashi said he kept copies of his work records and took pictures and videos inside the plant, encouraged by a TV journalist he had met before beginning his assignment. At one point, his boss from RH Kogyo told him not to worry because any radiation he was exposed to would not “build up.”

“Once you wait a week, the amount of radiation goes down by half,” the man is seen telling him in one of the recordings.

The former supervisor declined to comment.

The statement represents a mistaken account of radiation safety standards applied in Fukushima Dai-ichi, which are based on the view that there is no such thing as a safe dose. Workers are limited to 100 millisieverts of radiation exposure over five years. The International Atomic Energy Agency says exposure over that threshold measurably raises the risk of later cancers.

After Hayashi’s first two-week stint at the plant ended, he discovered his nuclear passbook — a record of radiation exposure — had been falsified to show he had been an employee of larger firms higher up the ladder of contractors, not RH Kogyo.

Reuters reviewed the passbook and documents related to Hayashi’s employment. The nuclear passbook shows that Hayashi was employed by Suzushi Kogyo from May to June last year. It says Take One employed Hayashi for 10 days in June last year. Hayashi says that is false because he had a one-year contract with RH Kogyo.

This story has been viewed 2518 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top