TEPCO admits to shady hiring practices at Fukushima nuclear plant

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  • 13

    gaijinfo

    You don't say!

  • 11

    mitoguitarman

    How sleazy can TEPCO get? Odds are we will continue to read about more and more despicable behavior by this amoral group of sleaz-o-crats.

  • 10

    Open Minded

    Nuclear gipsies are a standard practice in the nuclear industry, so nothing new here. What surprise me is why TEPCO is admitting it now and without apologizing for it. I am under the impression that the pool of gipsies is getting dry and other source of workforce - and as cheap as possible - need to be found very soon. The NPP cannot stay alone. Thus who will be the next ones? Foreigners from poor countries? Prisoners? Civilians forced to spend a week/year?

  • 17

    marcelito

    Changing the system and practices " is a difficult task that would take heavy work , it involves history and business ties - it could even hurt the industry ".... .Translation = too much money siphoned off by yaks , corrupt officials and amakudari leech companies over the years and there is lots more to come over the next couple of decades ,so nobody really wants to loose their gravy train or change anything. But we,ll try to appear really concerned, say " moushiwake arimasen " again and if pushed hard maybe even pretend to implement some cosmetic changes. We ask for your understanding. Thanks very much and don,t forget to vote for LDP in the election so we can get on with business as usual. Yoroshiku....

  • 5

    sakurala

    Oh TEPCO...are there any competent people working there? Are there any honest people that are actually working in the company that actually have the ability to think outside of profits and focus on workers right, displaced people and the future of NPPs in Japan. I wish they would just start charging TEPCO management for the crimes they are commiting. Or force them to disban and start fom scratch with new hiring policies, book keeping and recorded meetings so that the average citizen can feel a bit more secure (or be more informed) about what is happening within the company.

  • 7

    Hiroicci

    Shady practices...

    Is there anything un-shady at TEPCO???

    The only question you want to ask would be, "What's next?"

  • 0

    LiveInTokyo

    Do honest people exist?

  • 6

    ebisen

    Any volunteers from the Japantoday commentators group?

    No?

    I thought so.

  • 26

    zichi

    For decades, all the 9 mainland power companies with atomic plants have used day laborers or nuclear gypsies has they are known in the nuclear village. They have accounted for 80% of the total workforce at those plants and number about 80,000. This enables the power companies to keep down their wage bills and responsibilities. I know of no other country using unskilled day laborers at atomic plants.

    They have no rights and receive nothing more than daily pay. Mostly employed via agencies or contract companies which receive the lions share of payments.

    Since the 3/11 nuclear disaster, more than 20,000 people have worked at the Fukushima atomic plant. The majority have been these nuclear gypsies ranging in age from 16-18 year old teenagers to one man who was 84 years, probably a former employee at one of the plants. The highest radiation exposure for teenagers was more than 50 millisieverts while the highest for anyone was 600 millisieverts.

    With the almost total shutdown of all the country's reactors I would guess there's less work available now at those plants so the workers will head to Fukushima to seek employment.

    Many other people who didn't previously work at any of the atomic plants are now also seeking work at the Fukushima plant. Some because of unemployment and other who are being forced to work there because of their debts.

    The daily going rate seems to be about ¥8000 to ¥15,000 per day.These workers are holed up in cheap hotels in Fukushima City, many living four to five to a room to cut down on costs.They are bused out to the plant everyday. They are banned from talking to the media although a few have.

    They have no rights, no health checks or health care, no paid vacations, no pensions. They are limited to radiation exposure of 50 millisieverts in a year or 100 millisieverts over 5 years. Many use up that exposure limit including the 5 year limit which would mean looking for decontamination work or applying for work again at the atomic plant, but under a different name.

    I think very few records are being kept. There are huge sums of money involved and probably very few of the contract agencies are paying all the taxes they should.

    The gov't needs to investigate the current situation and put in place a system for ending these practices. Over the coming decades, TEPCO will need tens of thousands of workers at the Fukushima plant. There should be a gov't controlled office/agency in Fukushima which is responsible for employing and paying these workers. Since this disaster will last many decades, the gov't or TEPCO also needs to build accommodation to house them, just has they have done for their own workers at the J-village.

  • 11

    semperfi

    When will the former CEO and Board Member of TEPCO be facing criminal charges for negligent homicide, for starters . . and then some . . . ????????

  • 12

    borscht

    which he attributed to an industry-wide hierarchical contract system.

    In other words, 'not my responsibility.' Shocking to hear that. Oh, no, wait. Totally expected.

  • 11

    Utrack

    Excellent Post Zichi. Very informative, infact it should have been the article. =D

  • 1

    hereforever

    News Flash: DPJ exposes TEPCO's unethical practices. VOTE LDP!

  • 15

    hereforever

    Zichi, please freelance for JT. Your comments are more informative than the articles. Thank you.

  • 4

    alliswellinjapan

    This is essentially why nuclear energy comes out cheaper.

  • 7

    Virtuoso

    This was being reported in investigative articles within a month of the disaster. If anything, this article proves that the mainstream media hardly warrants its self-perceived image as vigilant watchdogs with the public's best interests in mind.

  • 7

    Yubaru

    Any volunteers from the Japantoday commentators group?

    No?

    I thought so.

    You ensure my safety, pay me enough, give me a place to stay that is warm and has decent food and yes I would do the work.

    BUT since it's TEPCO that is calling the shots.........NO.

  • 4

    gaijintraveller

    Zichi, thank you.

    "News Flash: DPJ exposes TEPCO's unethical practices. VOTE LDP!" who are the ones who instigated and will continue to expand the nuclear shenanigans.

    "Hirose said securing a workforce that can last through decades-long post-disaster operations would be critical to cleanup efforts." Is this meant to be an excuse?

  • 4

    smithinjapan

    So, using this shady practices was due to high turn-over after the nuclear crisis began, but is due to business dealings that are 'deep-rooted' and have been going on for a long time to due the hierarchical hiring practices? So is TEPCO now also going to admit that many, many more people may have been exposed to and succumbed to radiation than they brag about? Is anyone going to be held accountable? Will the system change or will Hirose's excuses of "It might hurt the industry!" get the usual government, 'naruhodo. ganbatte!' response?

    This is Japan, absolutely nothing will be done about it and they'll keep on using said shady business practices. They really are the laughing stock of the world.

  • 3

    tkoind2

    The government should nationalize Tepco. Take all of its funds and fire everyone who had anything to do with the bad practices over this entire time. Even if that means bringing in international workers to replace them.

  • 6

    taj

    This appears to be a job for.... The Ministry of Health, Welfare, & Labour!

    For years "temps" were only allowed to be used for a very restricted "white list" of positions, such as translator, data entry, etc.. That changed about a decade ago, to a list of "black list" of jobs that were forbidden (such as dock worker), with everything else open to "agency dispatching". Nuclear ANYTHING should never have been on any kind of an OK list.

    Double-dispatch (having one agency dispatch to a second agency, and then to the workplace, with each agency taking a cut), has always been illegal. Why hasn't the Ministry been keeping an eye on this? We all started to hear complaints early on, why didn't they? Any agency involved in double (triple, quadruple) dispatch loses it's license and the license holder can get jail time. The laws are there. Why not enforce them?

  • 3

    taj

    I'd also be in favour of a government controlled agency being put in charge. And I'd be more than willing to pay more for my electricity bill, to pay for better conditions for the workers and to see less go into the hands of anti-social forces.

  • 4

    herefornow

    This is Japan, absolutely nothing will be done about it and they'll keep on using said shady business practices.

    smithinjapan -- sadly, completely correct. All the bowing and apologizing TEPCO did after the disaster and saying that they would leran from their mistakes and work hard to re-gain public trust was just so much BS. Like so much of Japan. Nothing will change because no one in Japan Inc. really gives a damn about the actual public interest.

  • 6

    ikemen

    "but it will be extremely time-consuming,” Hirose said. “It’s a difficult task we cannot do on our own. It will take heavy-duty work. It involves history and business ties, and could even hurt the industry.”

    Wait, wait wait Mr Hirose!!!!!!

    You just admitted to shady hiring practices. And you're the boss. Fix it! And if you can't resign.

    It involves history? Okay, give us a history lesson. The company that had time and money to buy up real estate and go on junkets, and entertain and throw money at academics and media ---you never had time to ensure the safety of workers at a nuclear power plant? And still don't??

    and "business ties"??

    Fess up. Which businesses, and who did the tying???!??!?!

    Forgive me, but there needs to be a royal commission, or a congressional hearing or whatever they have here. If that's too hard, how about a kangaroo court and a firing squad.

    These guys at the top of Tepco were the scum of the earth.

    Just get ONE man in charge of hiring and make it his responsibility to make sure every gets paid and documented and well looked after. The men working there should be on big bucks and great conditions. Whatever happened to danger money?

    Typical Japanese businessman. Rotten to the cure but blames ....well...Mr Nobody. In this country it's always Mr Nobody, or Mr Everybody.

    Pathetic.

    As for politicians, this all started decades ago in the LDP years. But looking at the present, I call on Noda to just take over. Tepco has just admitted that they are UNABLE to take responsibility for people who work at the plant.

    They are inept and corrupt.

  • 8

    Disillusioned

    Is there anything this company hasn't lied about? They have used lies and deceit from the first ten minutes of the meltdown. Why hasn't there been charges laid against them? Are they above the law?

  • 8

    lucabrasi

    @zichi

    How do you know all this stuff? Serious question.

  • 3

    T-Mack

    "Zichi, please freelance for JT. Your comments are more informative than the articles. Thank you"..................I also agree...I alway's enjoy your comment's, better than wiki, or JT....I always vote you up!... Keep it up!.....I'm always in vigorous pursuit of your post's...

  • 7

    zichi

    @lucabrasi,

    It's no big deal. I just read all the major reports, all the TEPCO reports, and follow certain blogs and some of the better media sites. Most of what I read comes via RSS Feeds, which makes it a bit more easy. The main stream Japanese media have stopped reporting on much of it, but there's still a couple of good ones, especially Asahi.

  • 11

    wanderlust

    Just admitted!

    The photographer Kenji Hideguchi documented these same hiring practices more than 25 years ago, with his exposure of working conditions at the KEPCO plants in Tsuruga Bay, and the numbers of workers (nuclear gypsies) dying of cancer. The photographs of workers cleaning reactor vessels clad in just a loin cloth are unbelievable, he also documented in detail the pyramid of companies and how they hired staff. The UK documentary Nuclear Ginza in 1995 showed exactly the same, with the Yakuza preying on the homeless and unemployed in the back streets of Osaka, then bussing them in vans to the NPPs.

    All this was ignored by mainstream media and the establishment.

    There is a saying in Japanese that if you ever become indebted to the yakuza, and have to pay your debts, women go to the fuzoku, and men go to the reactor plants.

  • 6

    Disillusioned

    Hirose said TEPCO hopes to invite experts from the United States, Britain and France in coming years to seek technology expertise and support to decommission Fukushima’s reactors.

    Hope to? The international community have been trying to get into Fukushima since day one, but TEPCO and the J-Gov have been refusing their help. There was a French team that stated they could have it cleaned up and shutdown within 5-7 years, but they were ignored. Sadly, I feel this statement is just another load of 'public pleasing bullshit' from a bunch of deceitful liars!

  • 6

    wanderlust

    It would not be the first time that Japan has brought in foreigners to help with their NPPs. When some of the shrouds that shield the reactors ( the critical part where the nuclear reaction takes place) in Fukushima broke down ahead of time in 1997, and needed replacing, TEPCO brought in welders and other workers from Asia and the US to do the work, because they could be exposed to higher doses of radiation than the Japanese workers. hey were allowed to absorb a full years dose in just a few days.

    Tokyo Electric would admit five years later it had hid evidence of the extent of the defect in the shroud from regulators. That may have added to the pressure to finish the job quickly. When new cracks were found, they were fixed without a report to regulators, according to disclosures made in 2002

    After denying it for years, the VP who hired them, Kazunori Fujii told Reuters, saying how bad he felt that he had treated them all those years ago. Of course the companies who employed them, IHI and Toshiba, will not confirm foreign workers were hired.

    Now retired outside Tokyo, Fujii said he has come to see nuclear power as an "imperfect technology." "This is an unfortunate thing to say, but the nuclear industry has long relied on people at the lowest level of Japanese society," he said.

  • 0

    zichi

    @wanderlust

    I think you mean photographer Kenji Higuchi.

  • 2

    Balefire

    I believe that's Kenji Higuchi (樋口健二). The documentary--or at least most of it--can be found/viewed by searching for his name or for "Nuclear Ginza".

  • -5

    ebisen

    You ensure my safety, pay me enough, give me a place to stay that is warm and has decent food and yes I would do the work.

    Yes, and what else? A foot massage perhaps, every 15 minutes? Fluffy goose pillows?

    More, if you would get everything you've asked for, would you really go to work there?

    For company which is bankrupt many times over, and owning everything they will produce in the next 100-200 years to the state and the people of Japan?]

    Do you realize how ridiculous you sound?

  • 3

    YongYang

    I again AND again AND again. TEPCO you are Abhorrent! It is endemic within your organisation! Are you STILL not learning? Are you STILL continuing as WAS? Absolutely disgusting. WAKE UP! Act with sense of morality and ethics!

  • 0

    Outta here

    I don't understand why this is making news now. Some people on this site have been saying is since day one. And others have been critical of these people's claims just as long. Guess we now know who was right and who was wrong.....

  • -1

    HollisBrown

    Do they pay Shakai Hoken?

  • 4

    zichi

    @Disillusioned

    There was a French team that stated they could have it cleaned up and shutdown within 5-7 years, but they were ignored.

    I would question that statement. The radiation level inside reactor buildings 1-3 is above 10 sieverts per hour which is too high to allow any workers inside them for any length of time. Its even too high for robots to survive, and two of those have fried inside the reactor buildings. There's no team which could achieve a cleanup and shutdown with 5-7 years. It will take many decades.

    From November of next year TEPCO will start to remove the spent fuel from the No4 pool but will take about one year to complete. Once the debris is removed from the upper floors of the No3 reactor building, which because of the high radiation levels is being carried by remote controlled cranes, it may be able to come up with a way to remove the fuel from the spent fuel pool. The No3 spent fuel pool has a lot of debris in it, including a 30 ton overhead crane.

    Removing the spent fuel from reactors 1-2 will be even more difficult.

    It will take several decades before the radiation inside the reactor buildings drops to a safe level to allow workers in. Technically, the level should be dropping with time, but recently, in one reactor building, TEPCO found it to be increasing.

    There's no known way to deal with the fuel which melted and TEPCO will have to discover techniques for that. TEPCO isn't even certain where all the melted fuel went.

    There's the problem of highly irradiated water from cooling the reactors which is increasing everyday. Currently there are more than 200,000 tons, and by the end of next year, another 170,000 tons.

    Most of the work around the reactors, like removing the spent fuel from the No4 pool is being done by Hitachi nuclear engineers. Hitachi is an international company, partnered with the American company, Westinghouse. In Japan, its Hitachi-Westinghouse, and in America, Westinghouse-Hitachi, but basically, they are both owned by Hitachi. This gives Hitachi access to foreign nuclear experts.

    At the Fukushima plant, there are already American and French engineers working on the systems for lowering the radiation levels in the reactor cooling water.

    TEPCO has motivation and purpose to end the nuclear disaster as quickly as possible, but it will take several decades ad will eventually cost more than ¥50 trillion.

  • 2

    wanderlust

    zichi/ balefire - thank you for the correction, I misread the kanji on the book title.

    Kunio Horie wrote the original book, Nuclear Gypsies back in 1979, based on life at Mihama NPP. In the book, Horie describes lax safety standards at Mihama, including workers and managers ignoring radiation monitors and Kepco subcontractor employees not bothering to inspect the day laborers' cleaning and repair efforts because of radiation fears.

    He writes of a general atmosphere of resignation among workers that they would get sick and die from radiation exposure, but says that the money, then about 5,500 yen a day, was too good to pass up.

    In 2004, twenty-five years later, nearly everyone -- both pro and antinuclear -- agrees that basic safety standards are better for all workers than in Horie's day. But some in the antinuclear community say they suspect the hiring system for the dirtiest of jobs remains the same.

    "It's hard to say, but it appears conditions have not fundamentally changed since 'Nuclear Gypsy' came out. Certainly, working in the plants still puts people at risk. While the Mihama accident was not the fault of the subcontractors, there are still poor management attitudes on the part of Kepco and many of the workers involved," said Teruyuki Matsushita, a member of the Mihama town assembly.

    In 2012, eight years later, there is still not much change...

  • 4

    lucabrasi

    Cheers, Zichy. Thanks for all the info since the disaster.

  • 0

    Rhino

    What I would like to know is why they have robots playing the violin or riding a bike, but none that could be sent into an NPP to clean up?

  • 3

    zichi

    @Rhino

    because the electronic circuits of the robots can't deal with high radiation levels. It fries the circuits. One company is trying to come up with a more radiation proof robot.

  • -4

    smithinjapan

    I say make Hirose apologize by working where he put the 'nuclear gypsies' (or at least denied it as long as he could) for a week. Then bring in Shimizu as his replacement and put him there for a month. Promise them their pay for the job, but no papers to back up the promise. Suggest they'll get care. If they get scared and refuse, cut off a pinky or threaten to close down their off-shore accounts and freeze all their domestic ones, and say there will be no amakudari jobs in their future. No use threatening their families because I doubt they care about anyone but themselves.

    But will this ever be done? of course not. We're in Japan. Instead, Hirose will ask all the people residing here to 'share the burden' and further increase energy bills, saying, "We all must suffer for what has happened, sadly", then turn around and say, "Why should the industry suffer?!?" when it's suggested they correct practices which have helped further the disaster in the first place.

    In most other countries, this man and all the cronies at the top would be in prison by now, if not much worse. Demo, shou ga nai, ne!

  • 4

    zichi

    One of the worse things by TEPCO since the 3/11 nuclear disaster, is not paying the compensation claims to the 150,000+ nuclear refugee's, and its now 20 months. People from towns like Okuma, near the plant, will never be able to return there. The gov't wants to use it for storing contaminated soil but is being opposed by the town gov't and some of its people.

    The nuclear refugees are stuck in a limbo and most can't move forward until their compensations are paid.

  • 4

    zichi

    The Labor Ministry has acknowledged the illegal structure of multilayer contractors threatens the safety of workers at the atomic plant. It will order 8 companies to end the illegal dispatches. It has also requested TEPCO enhance its monitoring over the subcontractors. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201212100065

  • 1

    Leonard Anderson

    Well... This has been going on for years, check out the documentary "Nuclear Ginza" on Youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNq0qyQJ5xs

  • 1

    herefornow

    Since many posters here pointed out that all countries have environmental disasters, with many using the BP spill in the states to say "see it is not just Japan", I'd like to note that BP was just found CRIMINALLY negligent in the states and had to pay a record fine, and I believe four BP employees were charged criminally as well in the disaster. In Japan, nothing.

  • 0

    YongYang

    @Zichi

    Removing the spent fuel from reactors 1-2 will be even more difficult.

    Err, there are NO reactors or spent fuel. Just Corium masses. In No 3 too.

  • 2

    gonemad

    I know of no other country using unskilled day laborers at atomic plants.

    Just to list a few, the US, Spain, France and Germany are known to use unskilled day laborers through subcontractors just the same way as TEPCO and the other Japanese operators of NPPs. Given the type of work and legal (health) requirements, I would rather be surprised if you could find any NPP in any country worldwide where it is not the case. It doesn't make it any better, but TEPCO, to all intents and purposes, was working according to 'industry standards'...

  • 0

    zichi

    YongYang

    there's still part of the fuel left in the reactors 1-3, maybe 30% of the lengths didn't melt?

  • 1

    ushosh123

    Firing anyone isn't going to solve anything, but then again thats not what "they" are aiming for is it?

    Just fine / sue / punish who ever was involved in those hiring practice, if not personally then corporately, so that it is NOT financially beneficial to use such hiring practice. Financial incentive lead them here, financial incentive will lead them away.

    But as it is so evident that it was never about helping the people of japan or doing what's right, its always been about protecting tepco and things they have financial interest in. Why else would you hand the compensation hand out process to tepco.

  • -5

    nigelboy

    Since many posters here pointed out that all countries have environmental disasters, with many using the BP spill in the states to say "see it is not just Japan", I'd like to note that BP was just found CRIMINALLY negligent in the states and had to pay a record fine, and I believe four BP employees were charged criminally as well in the disaster. In Japan, nothing.

    There was an event called "3/11" which caused the deaths.

  • 0

    bajhista65

    TEPCO... ok ..ok... What is the next admission... all of your officials should be place in jail or better inside the reactors.

  • 0

    volland

    Two things....

    This is called "business as usual" in Japan, and the other thing that we might remember is, that there is probably not a single company in Japan that would have behaved differently! It is but a typical example of Japan "culture". If we judge Tepco and exclude the rest of Japan Inc., we basically judge Tepco, because an earthquake caused a Tsunami that hit where they built a nuclear power plant?

  • -2

    Maitake

    @LiveInTokyo

    Do honest people exist?

    There exists not one single honest individual on the archipelago of Japan.

  • -2

    nigelboy

    This is called "business as usual" in Japan, and the other thing that we might remember is, that there is probably not a single company in Japan that would have behaved differently! It is but a typical example of Japan "culture". If we judge Tepco and exclude the rest of Japan Inc., we basically judge Tepco, because an earthquake caused a Tsunami that hit where they built a nuclear power plant?

    Except that tsunami can occur after an earthquake that occured half way across the globe in another continent. And if you are an island nation with little or no resources, NPP is a viable option.

    Again, hindsight is 20/20. People will still live in hurricane/tornado prone areas. Major cities will still build skyscrapers and people will still use airlines despite 9/11. This is called "business as usual" in the world.

  • 0

    YongYang

    @Zichi. No.

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