No improvement in pay for subcontracted Fukushima decontamination workers

No improvement in pay for subcontracted Fukushima decontamination workers

TOKYO —

A dinner of boiled vegetables and 3.3 square meters of floor space for sleeping—those are the harsh conditions awaiting laborers who undertake government-mandated decontamination work necessitated by the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture. In some cases, workers are basically laboring for free when taxpayer-funded danger pay is excluded from their pay packets.

General contractors at the top of the pay pyramid and farthest from the dangers of the worksite reap the greatest benefits. They are the ones who directly contract with the government to take on the decontamination work. Once contracted, these firms subcontract work out to other companies, who in turn do the same. Onsite workers are employed by companies that are three or four steps removed from the source of funds. After each firm has taken its cut, not much money is left for paying workers.

“I wasn’t treated like a human being,” said a 59-year-old man from Aomori Prefecture who engaged in decontamination work in Tamura City for about two months from September of last year. He and three other workers were made to sleep in a tiny 13-square meter bungalow. He was also shocked when served his first dinner. “The only side dishes to go along with a bowl of rice were boiled eggplant, bean sprouts and bell peppers.” When he and other workers complained to the company, they were given “a couple of slices of packaged ham.”

His work consisted of cutting grass on steep slopes within 20 kilometers of the accident site. Of course there were no shops or restaurants operating nearby. For lunch, the company provided them with simple balls of rice. When questioned, the lady who made the meals said she was instructed by the company to use only 100 yen’s worth of ingredients for breakfast and 200 yen’s worth for dinner per serving.

“It was physically-demanding work, yet they treated us terribly,” the man said angrily.

In February, a 54-year-old worker collapsed and died of a heart attack while laboring in Kawauchi village, Fukushima.

An acquaintance who introduced the man to the job told him, “You’ll be paid 11,000 yen a day to cut roadside weeds. Accommodation and two meals a day are included.” Though that is the actual amount he received, workers are supposed to receive an additional 10,000 yen-a-day in danger pay for cleanup work contracted by the national government. If the amount of that danger pay is subtracted from the wage, it means the company itself was only paying the worker 1,000 yen a day. That works out to be less than one-fifth the prefecture’s minimum wage of 5,500 yen.

After he had been working for a month, the company asked the man to sign a “contract” in which the daily wage section had been left blank. He said he had seen a coworker’s contract which listed the gross wage to be paid as 15,700 yen and a deduction of 4,700 yen for food and lodging, resulting in net pay of 11,000 yen. When the subcontractor was contacted, it replied, “We added the extra government-mandated 10,000 yen danger benefit to the gross pay, however, since there is no agreement regarding deductions, we subtracted food and lodging expenses.”

The system is set up in such a way that multiple subcontractors are involved. A person from one subcontractor attested, “By the time funds reach us the amount needed to pay the danger benefit is no longer there.” The contractor said he had passed on the whole job to a company run by an acquaintance. He lamented, “If something is not shaved off the wages paid to the workers no profit can be made. In the end, only the general contractor is making a buck.”

Source: Otaku.com

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  • 4

    flammenwerfer

    prisoners get treated better....perhaps they should be doing this work; as part of paying off their debt to society - oops it's the 21st century, can't do that anymore - darn.

  • 2

    Yubaru

    And why are they even working then?

  • 3

    Cortes Elijah

    Just quit. Stop working there...then who will do it? Exactly. This way those greedy scumbags will learn and maybe TEPCO can pay 100% of the cost like it should.

  • 5

    marcelito

    This is a national disgrace. Where is proper government oversight and regulation ?

  • 2

    kurisupisu

    Adequate food and wages are most certainly a worry but I would propose that since the nuclear reactors have not been sealed properly that ongoing contamination is also a risk.also,the danger of accumulating exposure from inhalation and ground contamination from vast releases after 3/11 is not even mentioned in the article-I wonder why not?

  • 1

    Frungy

    Ah, the joys of unregulated capitalism, which is what I keep hearing people calling for without understanding that it naturally leads to situations like this.

    These workers are the most vulnerable of Japanese society. Too old to get regular employment, trying to save up for their looming retirement while Abe-san is slashing the value of their pensions, and barely making it by. Taking them to court would cost more money than they have, and these companies know that if they just delay long enough these old men will be dead before anything comes of it.

    This is a prime instance where government intervention isn't just advisable, but required.

  • 5

    Yubaru

    This is exactly one of the reasons why the problems at Fukushima keep occurring. The people who should be qualified to be working on this problem wont because the money sucks vs the risk involved, and there are too many middle men taking their cuts before any work actually gets done.

    It's a systematic problem that is all over Japan, and one of the reasons the economy sucks as well.

    People have asked where has the money gone? In all the middlemen's pockets.

    The government should be, but won't be, embarrassed by this situation. It's slave labor at best!

  • 2

    BurakuminDes

    Japans labour laws are weak and rarely enforceable. Furthermore, it is well known the yakuza are involved in sub-contracting many of these labourers. Shame on the japanese government.

  • 1

    Dennis Bauer

    @marcelito Apr. 08, 2013 - 08:04AM JST

    This is a national disgrace. Where is proper government oversight and regulation ?

    That make me chuckle in Japan?

  • 0

    ReformedBasher

    Disgraceful.

    It's real problems like this that people should pay attention to, rather than griping about petty things.

    Being in the news more than once, nobody can pretend ignorance of the situation. There should be an immediate investigation and working conditions improved as quickly as possible, under threat of harsh legal action if not followed through.

  • -1

    YuriOtani

    Shame on the LDP government! They are all probably taking kickbacks from the contractors.

  • -1

    smithinjapan

    Why is this not in the Crimes section? And better yet why is nothing being done about it? Just goes to show as well, for the worker, don't believe those ads that promised lofty pay for this kind of work; you'll be exploited with complete permission by the government.

  • -1

    smithinjapan

    ReformedBasher: "There should be an immediate investigation and working conditions improved as quickly as possible, under threat of harsh legal action if not followed through."

    Who's going to punish them? Remember, the government itself has BARELY achieved any reconstruction goals (though Abe keeps promising to push it).

  • 0

    cramp

    they reported about it, expressed outrage, then business as usual, no change, no restitution

    typical ...well, at least they're consistent

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