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

“We were asked to come in and go to work quickly,” an executive of Denko Keibi said, apologizing to the workers, who later won compensation of about US$6,000 each for unpaid wages. “In hindsight, this is not something an amateur should have gotten involved in.”

In the arbitration session Reuters attended, Denko Keibi said there had been problems with working conditions, but said it was still examining what happened in the December accident.

The Denko Keibi case is unusual because of the large number of workers involved, the labor union that won the settlement said. Many workers are afraid to speak out, often because they have to keep paying back loans to their employers.

“The workers are scared to sue because they’re afraid they will be blacklisted,” said Mitsuo Nakamura, a former day laborer who runs a group set up to protect Fukushima workers. “You have to remember these people often can’t get any other job.”

Hayashi’s experiences at the plant turned him into an activist. He was reassigned to a construction site outside Tokyo by his second employer after he posted an online video about his first experiences in the plant late last year. After a tabloid magazine published a story about Hayashi, his managers asked him to leave. He has since moved to Tokyo and filed a complaint with the labor standards office. He volunteered in the successful parliamentary campaign of former actor turned anti-nuclear activist Taro Yamamoto.

“Major contractors that run this system think that workers will always be afraid to talk because they are scared to lose their jobs,” Hayashi said. “But Japan can’t continue to ignore this problem forever.”

Additional reporting by Kevin Krolicki, Sophie Knight, Chris Meyers and Yoshiyuki Osada

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