Subcontractors reportedly ripping off Fukushima nuclear accident workers

Subcontractors reportedly ripping off Fukushima nuclear accident workers

TOKYO —

The Tokyo Shimbun has reported that workers involved with national government controlled cleanup projects resulting from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are being ripped off by subcontractors.

Despite being able to rent lodging facilities from the government and others for free or for very little money, contractors forcibly deduct inflated accommodation and meal charges from workers’ pay. When the 10,000 yen a day “danger pay” provided to contractors by the government (read: taxpayers) is taken into consideration, it means the contractors themselves end up forking out a measly 1,000 yen a day per worker.

Due to the risk of radiation exposure during decontamination work, the national government provides danger pay of 10,000 yen a day per worker. However, the allowance is paid to workers through operators contracted to undertake the cleanup work, resulting in a breeding ground of corruption due to the opacity of contractor wage payments.

In one case, workers carrying out hazardous decontamination work in Tamura City, Fukushima Prefecture, received 6,000 yen or so from the contractor each day, close to Fukushima’s minimum wage. The contractor then deducted between 4,500 yen and 4,750 yen for food and lodging, meaning the workers were only receiving a little over 11,000 yen per day after the government-funded 10,000 yen “danger pay”.

The source of funding for the danger pay is tax revenue, and it should thus be paid directly to the workers. However, because it is paid to the contractor, in this case it let them get away with paying in effect only a little over a 1,000 yen a day per worker after deductions.

The juicy bit for the contractor is in the food and accommodation fees it charges the workers. As it can essentially rent lodging facilities from the government for free, practically all the fees the contractor charges its workers end up as outright profits on its books.

In a similar case, another contractor recruited people to work for 11,000 yen a day without providing a breakdown of the pay. When workers began to question the contractor about the danger pay they were supposed to receive, the contractor explained that their daily pay was in fact 16,000 yen, including the danger pay, but that an accommodation fee of 3,700 yen and a separate 1,000 yen meal charge were being deducted.

In this case, the contractor was renting bungalows for 4,000 yen a piece and assigning four to five workers to each bungalow. It was thus collecting between 14,800 yen and 18,500 yen per bungalow. After subtracting its outlay of 4,000 yen, it meant the contract was booking a straight profit of between 10,800 yen and 14,500 yen a night per bungalow. According to an individual familiar with the situation, the contractor also kept meal costs down to about 300 yen per person.

In addition to less than clear wage breakdowns, many workers have not been provided with written contracts, only verbal agreements.

According to a Fukushima labor department official, the department has for the most part ascertained the reality of the situation in Tamura City and issued instructions to contractors there to improve conditions. However, similar instances of unclear terms and conditions for wages are also occurring outside of Tamura.

During its investigation, a public relations officer for a prime contractor told the Tokyo Shimbun, “In the past, there were instances of danger pay not being properly turned over to workers; however, we are repeatedly informing subcontractors of the need to do so. Regarding labor contracts and other matters, we are providing individual guidance (to the subcontractors) to help ensure contracts are based on law.”

Danger Pay

Due to the risk of radiation exposure, danger pay was set by the Ministry of the Environment as a special work allowance for those involved in Fukushima-related decontamination work controlled by the national government. The amount public servants received for entering hazard areas was used as a guide in determining the danger pay amount, which was set at 10,000 yen per day.

For those engaged in work at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, where risks are higher, Tokyo Electric provides danger pay in accordance to the situation on the ground, such as the amount of radiation recorded. However, complaints are surfacing with regard to the amount of danger pay being provided as not enough of it is reaching workers.

Source: Tokyo Shimbun
Title image: RFI

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  • 12

    Okinawamike

    In addition to less than clear wage breakdowns, many workers have not been provided with written contracts, only verbal agreements

    All those surprised by this announcement, raise your hand.

  • 4

    blendover

    I'm not surprised, but continue to be amazed:

    Right side of mouth: You can be sure we are going to fix all the problems with this industry up so that the safety of nuclear failities never becomes an issue again.

    Left side of mouth: Oh deary me. Well yes we know about this umm situation, but well we continue to send out letters and remind them of thier umm obligations.':

  • 1

    marcelito

    Disgusting....will we now finally see proper government crackdown and enforcement on these dodgy subcontractors? Of course not, just a few bows , moushiwake arimasen,s and lines thrown to the media about how the government will make sure that this situation will not be repeated....and nothing will change

  • 2

    Yubaru

    Ok now that the scheme has been brought to light what the heck does the government plan on doing next? Is the same going to continue or will the workers get the back pay they deserve, and how will the government deal with the sub-contractors?

    Follow up stories are needed and wanted here.

  • 2

    ToraMachine

    So what gets done now?

  • 0

    ChibaChick

    According to a Fukushima labor department official, the department has for the most part ascertained the reality of the situation in Tamura City and issued instructions to contractors there to improve conditions

    Yubaru I think this answers your question.

    What will they do next? Issue instructions to improve conditions. Back pay? Not a chance. How will the government deal with the contractors? They wont.

  • 3

    southsakai

    And i thought this type of thing only happens in Dubai with the migrant workers.

    People who do these type of things are sub-human, cruel, very selfish and plain mean.

  • 13

    zichi

    This has to stop!

    It'll take many years to finish the decontamination work, and decades to the end the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima atomic plant. There are about 3,000 temporary workers at the atomic plant every day and once they reach the limit of their radiation exposure, they can no longer work there for a period of 5 years, but I guess many of those will just move over to decontamination work.

    The decontamination work and the work at the atomic plant will need tens of thousands of workers over the coming decades. The current situation is riff with abuse which is going unchecked. The further down the food chain the more likely the abuse.

    At the top of the food chain are the TEPCO workers who receive good pay, vacations, health checks, sickness benefits, pensions and are being accommodated at the J-Stadium, but I don't know if they are charged for this. There are about 300 TEPCO workers at the plant everyday. At the bottom of the food chain, are the nuclear gypsies or day laborers who are mostly being employed by sub-contractors.

    I think some of the problems, along with the of dumping of the decontamination waste into rivers and other places, is coming from the use of sub-contractors. Some workers have been forced into working by the likes of the Yakuza, to work off debts or money borrowed.

    High thyroid radiation doses were discovered in 178 workers at the atomic plant, but I don't know if these are TEPCO employee's or temporary workers, but I think they must be TEPCO workers since the temporary workers don't have health checks.

    About 50%, of the 242 companies involved in decontamination work violated labor laws in 219 instances. In 8 instances, workers were not paid their wages or did not have health checks.

    The Environment Ministry is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the decontamination work.

    The use of sub-contractors for decontamination work and for providing workers at the atomic plant must cease immediately. The gov't needs to set up an office in Fukushima to oversee what is happening with all the workers. The workers must register at the office and after receiving a free health check receive a permit to work for a certain length of time. The office then notifies contractors which workers are available for employment. The contractors must notify this office about the conditions of employment like the amount of pay, and the total amount of any deductions they are making. Any worker who feels they are being abused can report it to this office which then can investigate the claim.

    The gov't or TEPCO should be building suitable temporary accommodations which these workers can rent for a reasonable amount, which would go back to the gov't instead of into the pockets of sub-contractors.

    The amount of danger or hazard pay is too little at ¥10,000 and needs to be increased to ¥25,000. The amount of pay and the conditions for working should be set by the gov't so that all the temporary workers are receiving the same pay and working conditions. At the start of every new six month working period they should also receive a free health check.

    Why do I think none of this will actually happen?

  • 5

    wackness

    Isn't this called regular business practice in Japan? It's nothing a slew of apologies can't fix.

  • 0

    FightingViking

    In one case, workers carrying out hazardous decontamination work in Tamura City, Fukushima Prefecture, received 6,000 yen or so from the contractor each day, close to Fukushima’s minimum wage. The contractor then deducted between 4,500 yen and 4,750 yen for food and lodging, meaning the workers were only receiving a little over 11,000 yen per day after the government-funded 10,000 yen “danger pay”.

    I don't quite get the mathematics here..."The contractor then deducted between 4,500 yen and 4,750 yen for food and lodging", from the 6 000 yen ?... meaning the workers receiving 6 000 yen or "a little over 11 000 yen" ?

  • 4

    Alphaape

    The next step the reporters should do is to look and see which local/national politican or party suddenly sees an increase in contributions from these contractors, and there you will find the root of the problem. Also, a look needs to be made at how the contracts were awarded and what connections do they have with politicans. Just recently in New Orleans, the former mayor Ray Nagin was indicted on corruption charges for kickbacks from contractors, and I am sure some J-gov politicals will probably be next up in this case.

  • 2

    nedinjapan

    wackness. You are right; this is quite regular Japanese practice. This is also Japanese Yakuza style working through governmental contracts. They simply intimidate workers into paying them for some "charges". These practices become common and this is how regular business practice is born!

  • -1

    Yubaru

    Yubaru I think this answers your question.

    I saw that part but in reality it only muddies the water even more because it doesnt detail what should be paid to these workers.

  • 4

    gogogo

    Is anyone suprised? Yakuza at their worst

  • 1

    Crazedinjapan

    What's sad is from what I understand the subcontractors are merely receiving instructions and are not being punished according to the laws implemented to stop this. Every contractor should be monitored to ensure that they are not collecting or deducting dubious expenses. They should be fined by the local and federal government if caught doing it. Such a disgusting display of greed and ignorance.

  • -1

    WA4TKG

    OMG !; Did I think this sort of thing was NOT going to happen ?; NO !!!!!!

  • 0

    sighclops

    Colour me surprised...

  • -4

    Patric Spohn

    @FightingViking Yeah it's a JT typo. Should read ...received 16,000 yen or so from the contractor each day...

    The problem in Japan are all the tiny (unnecessary) companies in the middle of the food chain. An apartment owner or its door slave can't even change a light bulb themselves. One need to order a "specialized" company to do so. That makes things so expensive here. On the other hand, unemployment rate is low as a result of this system :)

    • Moderator

      There is no typo.

  • 3

    tmarie

    Japan just keeps proving time and time again the a) they can't handle this b) that honorable Japan is a joke and that c) money talks.

    I am beyond disgusted and fed up with all of this. I have zero hope that things will be sorted out.

  • 1

    Zen student

    @FightingViking and Patric Spohn

    6,000 (subcontractor work pay) - 4500/4,750 (after food/lodgin) = 1500/1,250 then + 10,000 (compulsory govt. "danger pay" that must be paid out) = 11, 500/11,250 or thereabouts. I admit, the way the article is worded though makes it confusing.

    Still criminal and sick but like others have pointed out, not all that surprising really. These guys are fixing up Japan for us and THIS is how we reward them? These sub-contractors are real low-lives.

  • -3

    Daijoboots

    b) that honorable Japan is a joke

    Oh please. If you've been let down from what the guide book told you and you expect every Japanese to behave perfectly in every situation, I'm sorry.

    The system needs to be reformed and now the news is out it will be. The companies were obviously provided incentive to act in the way they have. Companies exist to maximise profit, not to be the moral upholders and supposed representatives of a nation.

    There are some 127 million people in Japan, and if we're going to paint them with one brush, then yes they are honourable.

  • 2

    tmarie

    Guidebooks? Nah. Just the TV shows here and the locals that go on an on about honor and the like. I'm not surprised I just wish that the public would wake up and start demanding all this honor they go on about. Not for me but for the men risking their lives and being treated like garbage.

  • 5

    Disillusioned

    So, the contractors are ripping off the workers and instructing them to illegally dispose if waste in rivers. Why isn't anybody facing charges? Why haven't the contracts been revoked? Why am I paying taxes to support this bloody farce? Just another kaffufle to ad to Japan's shame file. Meanwhile, Naoki Average sits at home watching SMAP TV and saying, "shoganai!"

  • -3

    Daijoboots

    the locals that go on an on about honor and the like

    Well sorry if you don't think so of said locals. My experiences show that the Japanese, yes all of them, are an honourable people.

  • 4

    tmarie

    Yes, ALL of them. Including those who are ripping off these workers...

  • 0

    tmarie

    Well said Dis! Though I think we know no one will be arrested for this. TEPCO still sitting pretty. All those honorable men...

  • 3

    sf2k

    probably in the same family as TEPCO employees

  • 0

    tmarie

    Sf - Yamaguchi gumi family perhaps?!

  • 0

    mountainpear

    They're wasting people's lives and money in this ridiculous "clean up"!!! Contaminated areas should be closed off and people must just accept that these places are uninhabitable indefinitely!

  • 1

    Crazedinjapan

    With the supposed push to bring in more foreign workers , news like this will act as a warning and deterant to come here to seek employment. As mentioned above contracts should be in place ...but from personal experience in many cases the contracts aren't worth the paper they are written on unless you have good legal representation which can drag on for years if it heads to court. The most disappointing fact above summed up is these workers who are possibly subjecting themselves to personal harm in order to provide for ....are being used and ripped off and could get the same pay working in a much safer environment ...(same because they aren't getting the full benefit of hazard plus salary )

  • 3

    marcelito

    tmarie - you are absolutely right - fat chance things will be sorted out apart from a little bit of window dressing. I,ve lost all hope that Japan can reform its cancer like corruption plague that is so widely spread out here. Where is the public anger? This Fukushima debacle is but one example.

  • 0

    ReformedBasher

    Logic sequence (to me) is

    1. The workers get paid in full by the government, TEPCO or the contracting companies. Doesn't matter, sort it out later. Also they get proper health checks, training and equipment and whatever else they need or deserve.

    2. They get compensated for being ripped off. Again, by who, doesn't matter at this stage.

    3. The poop hits the fan, with care taken to ensure the workers are not affected. All contracting companies are thoroughly screened.

  • 2

    Phil Thompson

    Disgusting and unforgivable... but 99.9% of the population just says shouganai and that's that. These crooks should be locked up - but since that is never going to happen, they should at least have their names made public and posted all over the internet. They deserve to be shamed, not given the luxury of anonymity.

  • 1

    Elvensilvan

    Most of the workers there were the victims of the tsunami, and now, they're again victimized ... not by nature, but their fellow man.

    And several days ago, the government made an apology for the sloppy clean-up work in some areas.

    So now it's clear that the clean-up job is not sloppy, but the management of the clean-up project is not only sloppy, but downright inhumane, insulting and criminal.

    The only thing that bothers me is that in the next few days, we'll be seeing more bowing in front of cameras ... but no real action against the subcontractors and the victims.

  • 1

    Soseki

    And I thought that the world had advanced past the Age of Feudalism. Guess not.

  • -1

    tmarie

    Elven, I was under the impression that many workers are day laborers rounded up in places like Osaka - where they were promised a roof over their heads, food and lots of money. Do you have a link that states otherwise because if what you say is true, the tsunami victims are getting once again, screwed over by the government.

  • 2

    TokyoGas

    Lip service from the government and nothing else. I would be surprised if the situation changed one single bit.

  • 2

    Christopher Blackwell

    Gee from the way these subcontractors work, you could get the impression that the Yakuza were crooks?

    Odd that this dumb American in the United States who has never been to Japan can figure that out just by reading Japan Today, it seems amazing that the government never figures this out, nor takes any action. One could get the idea that there is little difference between the government and the Yakuza.

  • 2

    smithinjapan

    The thing is, nothing is going to be done about it. They'll apologize and say, "We'll do our best to improve the situation", but that's all that'll happen. I would only be surprised by this if: a) anyone was actually surprised by this, and b) anything was done to remedy it.

  • -1

    TheInterstat

    Yeah, are you lot surprised by this in any way at all? No, me neither. I have lived in this country long enough to know that this kind of thing is standard, and continues to wreck a lot of lives.

  • 0

    bajhista65

    Reading this news makes me mad. Probably this have been happening in Japan ever since. Quick buck for all these contractors out of the pockets of poor workers needing jobs to survive the poor economy. I am sure these contractors, are in cohorts with JGovt officials awarding contracts. I wonder why these contractors not mentioned by JT. But I am sure they are connected to the underground organizations known as the Yakuzas whose business are to get quick and easy bucks. These should be stopped. Calling PM Abe.

  • 0

    FightingViking

    The lowest of the low...

  • 0

    Vernie Jefferies

    I hope to see some suits storm those offices and carry out boxes of evidence on the news.

  • 0

    cramp

    issued instructions to contractors there to improve conditions

    ..means nothing will happen

  • 1

    yuhki

    This proves Japanese government can not manage nuclear power plants and facilities properly even after the 3.11. And this is the reason why I am against nuclear power generation in Japan.

  • -1

    Ewan Huzarmy

    The only question on my mind is, why isn't this being reported in the crime section ?

  • -3

    basroil

    Christopher BlackwellJan. 21, 2013 - 12:52PM JST

    Gee from the way these subcontractors work, you could get the impression that the Yakuza were crooks?

    Sad thing is that they probably are the lowest end of organized crime. After all, the most popular euphemism for organized crime is "construction business"

  • 0

    Andrew Viga

    History lesson: Chernobyl happened in 1986 CE137 is what is most deadly to humans and the levels of radiation are what make it so deadly. However because of its half life it's takes many years for it to become safe for humans to be near. Even though Chernobyl happened in '86 Chernobyl itself will still not be safe for humans for another 6 centuries. So we can safely assume that Fukushima and the surrounding area are going to become safely inhabitable for about that long give or take a few centuries. As for the workers while I do feel this is the equivalent to robbery no one is forcing the. To work there, and you can always find another alternative. Nuf said

  • -4

    basroil

    Andrew VigaJan. 23, 2013 - 12:24AM JST

    History lesson: Chernobyl happened in 1986 CE137

    History lesson: In CE137 Hadrian was picking the next in line and celebrating overwhelming victory in his last campaign. You mean Cs137, a radioisotope of caesium.

    is what is most deadly to humans and the levels of radiation are what make it so deadly.

    Actually, the most deadly things to humans during nuclear disasters are evacuation and malnutrition. Radiation comes far down the line.

    Even though Chernobyl happened in '86 Chernobyl itself will still not be safe for humans for another 6 centuries. So we can safely assume that Fukushima and the surrounding area are going to become safely inhabitable for about that long give or take a few centuries.

    Based on the half-life of the isotopes and current radiation levels alone, nowhere near that. http://www.flickr.com/photos/7577652@N08/5610637814/in/set-72157626476941444/ is a photo taken outside reactor 4 in 2011, showing readings of 4microSv/hr (35mSv/year), so it's about 24 years before the levels are within the recognized limit of 20mSv/yr for relocation, not centuries (and only 135 years or so to be normal, per-disaster levels). Most "contaminated" places in Japan are far below 4microSv/hr, and are habitable much sooner thanks to the little remembered fact that cs134 contributes to half of the initial radiation (and about a quarter of the current radiation thanks to a 2 year halflife).

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