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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 July 12 - 18  > Workers at front-line of Fukushima NPP decommission work experiencing illegal labor practices
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2017 July 12 - 18 [LABOR]

Workers at front-line of Fukushima NPP decommission work experiencing illegal labor practices

July 17, 2017

At the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, subcontractor workers engaged in the ongoing decommission work are experiencing illegal labor practices under the multi-layer subcontracting system including wage theft and violations of rules on occupational safety and health.

A worker of a TEPCO sub-subcontractor worked at a site adjoining the No.1 nuclear reactor building from February to July 2016. His job included the removal of debris caused by the 2011 nuclear accident. At the site, he received instructions from TEPCO’s primary contractor, Shimizu Corporation.

When removing debris, large pieces of rubble were collected with the use of heavy equipment. However, smaller pieces were gathered by hand.

Documents that Akahata obtained from the worker indicated that the average radiation level and the maximum level at his job location stood at 9.85 millisieverts per hour and 35 millisieverts per hour, respectively. This worker’s radiation exposure from his six-month service totaled 54.83 millisieverts, exceeding the government set upper limit of 50 millisieverts a year for nuclear power plant workers.

The worker said, “I think, my wages were siphoned off by my employer.” He quit his job as his wages were too low considering the hazardous nature of the work and his radiation dose reached the maximum level. Although he suffered from severe headache and chronic fatigue, he hesitated to see a doctor due to financial concerns.

Tamura Akihiko, a doctor and the head of the Kyushu Institute for Social Medicine, said, “The national government should establish measures to provide lifelong medical assistance to all workers working not only at the Fukushima NPP but also at other NPPs in Japan. More importantly, it should urgently introduce a health support program for those who received an annual radiation dose of more than five millisieverts.”

Saito Tomiharu who heads the Fukushima local of the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) stressed that the pyramidal structure of subcontracting is the cause of wage theft and harsh working conditions associated with decommission work at the Fukushima NPP. Zenroren’s prefectural organization has been offering labor counseling services to Fukushima workers. Saito said, “Workers assigned to decommission work should be employed by TEPCO’s primary contractors. In addition, it is essential to have the utility and its major contractors fulfill their employer responsibilities.”

Past related articles:
> Ex-worker at Fukushima NPP sues TEPCO for causing his leukemia [November 24, 2016]
> Ichida demands ban on illegal labor practices in Fukushima decontamination work [March 19, 2014]
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