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Workers at Fukushima plant toil away in deadly conditions

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"But working conditions have improved now and we are strictly checking the radiation exposure of all workers," Hosoda said.

What happens to a worker who has exceeded the limit? Does he get a compensation package, or just removed from the workforce?

Considering they only get 8,000 yen a day, I assume that they are only listed under "pa-to", which means minimal benefits and support from employers.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Good, interesting story, but not a new story. The scandalous abuse of workers was known by some of us on this Forum from early on, as in a week or two after the disaster erupted.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Many with experience in the industry shy away from the plant.

No there's a vote of confidence for TEPCO and the government, wouldn't you say?

3 ( +2 / -0 )

For decades, the nuclear industry has employed thousands of temporary workers and day laborers. They have become known has nuclear gypsies, and number between 60,000 to 80,000. They far outnumber the full time employee's of the nine mainland major power companies at their nuclear power plants.

Some of the nuclear gypsies are also homeless men. Prior to the 3/11 disaster, they moved from nuclear plant to nuclear plant, seeking whatever work was available. Never directly hired by the power companies, always several contractors and sub-contractors between them and the workers.

All workers are suppose to receive some basic training in nuclear safety, but at least one power company, TEPCO have stated that it's the responsibility of the contractors.

I would think that this is a undocumented work force, with few or no records. They don't receive any of the benefits enjoyed by full time workers, paid vacation, overtime payments, health checks, sickness payments, pensions.

I doubt they are even measured for radiation exposure. This is just another dirty aspect of an industry which was mostly given a free hand by decades of LDP governments to do whatever it wanted in whatever way it wanted, even if it meant exposing these workers, or just treating them no better than human cattle.

Since 3/11, we have discovered how corrupt the nuclear industry is, from the top atomic agency, the Nuclear Safety Commission and down through the ranks to the power companies. The nine power companies on mainland Japan, have earned billions of yen in profits over the past four decades or so.

Since the beginning of the nuclear disaster, there have been between three to five thousand temporary workers at the Fukushima power plant. They are banned from speaking with the media, but on several occasions they have spoken out about the conditions at the plant.

There are many areas around the plant compound which continue to have dangerous levels of radiation. Near the No3 reactor, a TEPCO spokesman stated last week, the level was more than 1,500 microsieverts/hr.

TEPCO had stated, all workers at the plant were measured at the end of each shift for radiation exposure and total records kept because then it reaches 100 millisieverts, the workers are banned from working at any nuclear plant for five years, but I doubt that is actually happening.

Full time workers of TEPCO are leaving in droves, the highest numbers for the company who are also not hiring.

15 ( +14 / -0 )

8000 yen a day. That's sad. I earn 3 times that and I'm sitting in front of a computer all day. My only health risks are blood cloth and spilling my coffee. I would have thought they would be more around 25 000 ~ 50 000 yen a day. At least.

For that amount, better work at some konbini or donki.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

The daily rate is between ¥5,000 to ¥15,000 depending on which contractor or sub- contractor they are fortunate or unfortunate who they work for. All must pay commission. The contractors are getting much higher payments plus the commission. Some are being forced to work to pay off debts they owe. The gangs seem to be unsupervised without some kind of work crew leader.

If the nuclear reactors are not restarted, those of these nuclear gypsies will find themselves without work, except at the Fukushima plant.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

In 2010, 88% of the 83,000 workers at the nation's 18 commercial nuclear power plants were contract workers, according to NISA.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Isn't it possible to use robots to enter the insides of the reactor? Not the humanoid ones, just simple ones with wheels and a camera mounted on top.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Heros are making what should be minimum wage. I can only shake my head at that.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

It's always the subcontractors that do the challenging work. I've never seen an actual TEPCO van turn up at work sites.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Where is the Department for Labour and standards? Are they not interested?

Is there a reason this breach of basic safety is/ has not been investigated?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The Heros are making what should be minimum wage. I can only shake my head at that.

Utrack, you said it. Absolutely disgusting.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

sub contractors = Yakaza work force... the workers get pai 8000 yen how much does the "company" get ontop?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

While the execs 'toil' away in luxury in their Tokyo office, or retire to a 500 million yen severance package.

"The man did not want to be identified for fear of losing the 8,000 yen daily paycheck he receives."

This is wrong on SO many levels, let alone the company is subcontracting and not keeping good enough tabs on exposure. 8000 yen for a day risking your life??

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The unions in this country are WAY too weak. At the other end of the spectrum, in countries like France, the unions are too strong. Still, having strong unions is probably better than having weak ones - for the workforce at least.

8,000 yen a day! That's criminal. Not sure how many hours they are working on an average day but let's assume an average of 8 hours. That's 1,000 yen an hour to work somewhere NOBODY in their right mind would choose to work at, if they had the choice. If TEPCO feels it can get away with paying unemployed or scarcely employed people this amount without any moral pangs whatsoever, then they really are the scum of the earth.

Come on Japanese unions, now is your time to act!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It's been said, but if the government and TEPCO execs are so absolutely positive and believe their insistance that things are safe then by all means they should take the place of the workers and put their money where their mouths are.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Isn't it possible to use robots to enter the insides of the reactor?

At the moment, impossible due to the radiation and debris inside the reactors. And, another thing is making a door to put the robot inside, thus letting out radiation.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Outrageous! I've heard manual laborers payed at least 5 times that amount to work within radiation hazards without being told about the dangers.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

with the radiation exposure of some workers left unmeasured because of a shortage of dosimeters.

Now I doubt about those dosimeters TEPCO is providing to these workers.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

JolienJm, they tried that. Japanese have rescue robots for fires, earthquakes, floods, you name it as long as you don't mention "nuclear accident". It couldn't happen in Japan and developing one would upset people, was the line Tepco used when thwarting all development of rescue robots for nuclear accidents.

Japanese quickly fitted one robot with radiation shielding, but just the makeshift shield was as heavy as the robot, and of course RC control was out of the question. The robot snagged the control cable on rubble and has been stranded inside ever since. They use American robots when they need one.

A japanese robot won world championship on an obstacle course. They're really good at running away. Like Tepco.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Homeless, gypsies, or whatever. HEROS!

Nuff Said!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The average salary of a radiation therapist working in the United States is $56,500 per year. I'd go on strike if I were getting 8000yen a day.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The man did not want to be identified for fear of losing the 8,000 yen daily paycheck

Oh boy - are things really that bad?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Gurukun, to be a hero you have to do something with courage from your heart and convictions. Some of these men are in those plants by force of the yakuza or force of economics where an empty stomach motivates them. All are victims of a company that is using them at almost slave labor. And some are victims of a yakuza that says "go in or else". In my opinion, a hero shines & is helping and doesn`t need help. But in this case, these men are helpless victims who desparately need help. They need someone to force Tepco to pay them right, train them right, & work them right. Others need help to escape the arm of the yakuza. All these men are being taken advantage of and mistreated.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

"I'd go on strike if I were getting 8000yen a day."

with empty bellies, they don't have the luxury of going on strike!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

What a disgrace.....priorities are so wrong in this country. I can see Japan turning into a Fukushima....government, economic meltdown.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

8,000 yen a day should be considered crime against humanity

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Crikey,

Where is the Department for Labour and standards? Are they not interested?

Is there a reason this breach of basic safety is/ has not been investigated?

They do not interested because there is nothing they would have interest happening.This is all fully legal.There is not breach of safety to be investigated.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

777777, although I agree what you state, to some point, but "yakuza that say go, or else," means what? What is that "Or else?" These workers that are laboring there are giving thier life, literally. Regardless if they are forced to be there, because they are hungry, or not, there bravery and heroism should not be forgotten. Hell, with all the lies coming out of TEPCO, they couldn't pay me enough to work in that environment.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Gurukun, the yakuza dont play nice. They have a way of making ppl do what they want them to do. They can threaten bodily harm or mutilation. They can kill with no remorse. And if that doesnt work, they can threaten to harm innocent members of your family, and they dont make empty threats. So those who fall into the hands of the yakuza may weigh their options and feel they have a better chance workiing in the plant getting 8000 yen than the other options. And although I think everyone should be grateful they are doing this work, to label them as heros distracts from the abuse because a hero does things voluntarily. I would bet the majority of these men dont want to be there & would take a lower paying job if they had one. However, there were some old retired men that volunteered to do the job after the big quake, and Tepco refused them. Those were heros. Those were men who said "we are old so our lives are limited and we want to save the younger ppl". They also said by going in voluntarily they could demand better safety and work conditions than those going in as contract workers. So they were willing to put their lives on the line to save the contract workers too. This was true so Tepco refused them. To be called a hero one has to qualify. These men are victims and need to be recognized and helped as victims not applauded as heros to continue as usual.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

These gypsies are usually employed to work at the NPP, but hired by independent "jinzai haken", or manpower services firms. If the workers are getting 8,000 yen a day, the actual amount TEPCO is paying the manpower firm would definitely be larger.

Someone said about working for Donki or a kombini instead ... thing is, in the tsunami-devastated area, almost everyone is jobless, and there are just a few businesses running. For most of the gypsies, it's either this job, or go hungry.

The sad thing is that when they get over the safety limit, they're banned out of the workers' list. Up to the 3/11 disasters, these gypsies may have had a "semi-permanent" job, considering that radiation exposure may have been minimal and even ignored. But now that radiation exposure is assured, the future looks bleak for them.

Will TEPCO continue abusing them? Will the Japanese government even care to intervene? Only time can tell.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This whole problem starts from the fact that there are only part time jobs at the site of a nuclear accident. Nobody should exceed the 100 mS, and they are not allowed near the plant once they are close to this amount. In Japan, part-time=low salary.

the Japan government needs a goos ass-kick for allowing Tepco to pay such low salaries, when it's clear that the job can permanently damage the health of the workers. For me, Tepco is profiting from the situation they created : first destroy the economics of a whole region, then hire part-time workers on very low salaries, for a life threatening job...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Nuclear workers in the USN train for 1.5 years before we go to work.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

7777777,

Some of these men are in those plants by force of the yakuza or force of economics where an empty stomach motivates them.

Recently western media claims yakuza involve in Olympus, yakuza involve in AIJ. You say yakuza involve in fukushima? Really? That is a very serious claim. If true we would all worry severely. But do you have proof for this claim? Can you show us a court case where defendent was forced to work at Fukushima by yakuza? Without such a proof, I think we can safely ignore such accusation.

As to the economics point,I can agree to that.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Many companies, and even some individuals will make millions, maybe even billions over the next 40 years, all paid forby the taxpayer, but none of them will be these temp workers.

This disaster is a gold mine which will reap more than ¥30 trillion.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Freelance journalist Tomohiko Suzuki, who has written a book based on his experience working undercover at the plant last summer

I have read his book, The Yakuza and the Nuclear Industry.

Suzuki claims the regular employees at the plant were often given better radiation suits than the yakuza recruits. The regular employees were allowed to pass through sophisticated radiation monitors while the temporary labourers were simply given hand rods to monitor their radiation exposure.

Those who reported feeling unwell were treated by Tepco doctors, nearly always with what Suzuki says was essentially cold medicine.

The masks, if their filters were cleaned regularly, which they were not, could only remove 60 per cent of the radioactive particles in the air. Anonymous workers claimed that the filters themselves were ill-fitting; if they accidentally bumped their masks, radiation could easily get in.

The initial work, directly after a series of hydrogen explosions in March, was extremely dangerous. Tepco sent out word to their contractors to gather as many people as possible and to offer substantial wages. Yakuza recruited from all over Japan; the initial workers were paid 50,000 yen per day, Even then, recruits were hard to find. Officials in Fukushima reportedly told local businesses, “Bring us the living dead. People no one will miss.”

One of the workers said, “If it was a matter of dying today or tomorrow they wouldn’t work there,” he explains. “It’s because it could take 10 years or more for someone to possibly die of radiation excess. If you owe enough money to the yakuza, working at a nuclear plant is a safer bet. Wouldn’t you rather take a chance at dying 10 years later than being stabbed to death now?”

Tepco have always known they were working with the yakuza; they just didn’t care.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/japan-earthquake-and-tsunami-in/9084151/How-the-Yakuza-went-nuclear.html

7 ( +7 / -0 )

@j4p4nFTW

Last December, there was an article here in JT about the Yakuza's admitted involvement in supplying manpower for TEPCO as payback of debts. The article itself has been purged, but the comments are still around: http://www.japantoday.com/category/crime/view/yakuza-involved-in-fukushima-clean-up-reporter

3 ( +3 / -0 )

j4p4nFTW,

this malpractice convenes the laws governing the labor standards and practices in the nuclear industry which was allowed to get away with it foe decades because Japanese Big Nuke and the LDP were bedfellows. The LDP received many large donations.

us a court case where defendent was forced to work at Fukushima by yakuza? Without such a proof,

There was a recent post on JT about the Yakuza involvement with Fukushima and not only are they providing much of the labor but also machinery.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

There are many areas around the plant compound which continue to have dangerous levels of radiation. Near the No3 reactor, a TEPCO spokesman stated last week, the level was more than 1,500 microsieverts/hr. TEPCO had stated, all workers at the plant were measured at the end of each shift for radiation exposure and total records kept because then it reaches 100 millisieverts, the workers are banned from working at any nuclear plant for five years, but I doubt that is actually happening.

Again with the unit inconsistencies... is there any specific reason you said 1500microsieverts instead of 1.5millisieverts which would then give people a sense of scale with the following units you use for comparison?

As I asked last time, you said you were an engineer - wouldn't you agree it is a bad idea to alternate between related unit values?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

yildiray,

yes its correct, I'm a former electrical engineer.

I think many people on this forum have come to understand something about what microsieverts mean.

I see no problem quoting in different units but I suppose I could have said the area near the No3 reactor is 1,500 microsieverts/hr. The maximum radiation a worker is allowed to receive in one year is 100,000 microsieverts.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Blair Herron,

yes indeed, voted up!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

TEPCO themselves pay 100,000 Yen per day for each worker, but by the time the 5~7 layers of sub-contractors have each taken their cut, the workers get between 8,000~15,000 day. That has been reported clearly in the Japanese media over the last few months, along with cases at other utilities.

They can clearly wash their hands of the problem, by blaming others for the treatment of workers, though it is clear from published safety data that 85% of radiation is absorbed by contractors, not direct TEPCO employees.

For the actual workers, their choices are few; when they have reached their exposure limit, stop working, or go elsewhere under a different name, easily done as the background checks are so poor and ineffective. That of course assumes that their employers have measured doses properly, their dosimeters worked correctly, and that data was entered correctly. These assumptions have also been shown to be incorrect, through statements from workers.

Finally, few workers are well-educated in radiation physics or nuclear medicine; they know the work is dangerous, but not really what the actual hazards of excessive exposure are. There is no provision for welfare once doses have been exceeded, so they just roam the country, working at different utilities under different names to earn cash. No wonder in the West they are nicknamed, glow boys, gamma sponges, jumpers, radiation sponges, or in Japan, nuclear gypsies.

For people like j4p4nFTW who continuously deny anything untoward is happening in Japan, this has all been reported by Japanese journalists and Japanese photographers and indeed one Japanese priest, and published in Japanese media over the last 15 years. Just search for Higuchi Ken and Horie Kunio, for a start...

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This is all fully legal.

No. The temp staff agency for nuclear power plant worker staffing is illegal under the Employment Security Law according to asahi.com.

Under the system (so called disguised subcontracts), a subcontractor provides temporary staff to a general contractor, and they work under the instructions of the general contractor. The practice is illegal under the Employment Security Law, which is designed to protect the rights of workers and to ensure proper working conditions for them.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201202020055

Some illegal activities done by TEPCO have been ignored. Another example is: under the Anti-gang Ordinance, all businesses have to sever ties with yakuza. If a local caterer, for example, delivers bento to Yakuza office, they will be punished. If TEPCO sends electricity to Yakuza office buildings, they should be punished, too. Why isn't TEPCO punished yet while still sending service to Yakuza?!?!

http://kazuogu.cocolog-nifty.com/samenaiuchini/2011/12/some.html

4 ( +4 / -0 )

yildiray,

In my comments I've been using the same units of radiation as used and presented by the government, atomic agencies, TEPCO and the media. So I just followed suit.

When referring to local radiation they usually use microsieverts/hr but when referring to the amount of radiation you could receive in a year then they use millisieverts. All the charts and maps are in microsieverts When referring to radiation in food or soil then they use becquerels.

So I will continue t use them the way its reported, sorry if that bothers you.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

There are enough capable robots around the world with sufficient radiation shielding. Directly after the quake, German experts made one ready, which was actually built to withstand for cosmic radiation in space, just waiting for the Japanese to ask for it. That request, however, never happened, "since this is a problem that Japan has to solve itself".

If these nuclear workers would have the courage to stand up for themselves - and society would support their bid - TEPCO would have to pay fair. Imagine they'd go on strike and Daiichi tends toward meltdown again. Even though this is an extreme example - they should pressure TEPCO for higher wages. I think 30000 yen per day is fair payment for the job that they do. They are normally three hours daily in the danger zone. Plus the stress. The health risks. Someone working under such conditions deserves that amount of money.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In many parts around the plant, 24 hours of exposure equals one year of allowed radiation. So after 24 hours of labor they are out of work for five years. I guess many workers are using multiple false names?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The best cold shutdown will be when Japan goes 100% solar & renewables, by 2040.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

When you consider all the other 'third world' work practices in Japan this should come as no surprise. Yet, the Japanese media will print articles about slave labor in China. In 'developed' countries this would be some of the highest paid work going just from penalty rates, allowances and danger money, but not on this back water island. They just send lambs to the slaughter.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

In my comments I've been using the same units of radiation as used and presented by the government, atomic agencies, TEPCO and the media. So I just followed suit. When referring to local radiation they usually use microsieverts/hr but when referring to the amount of radiation you could receive in a year then they use millisieverts. All the charts and maps are in microsieverts When referring to radiation in food or soil then they use becquerels. So I will continue t use them the way its reported, sorry if that bothers you.

Absolute nonsense - The last time I called you out on this, you had used both in terms of hourly doses. The point is, if you want to present information accurately and fairly then consistency is important (vital in fact!). The government and media pull this crap to confuse people ("lies, damned lies and statistics") so please don't fall into that same trap.

Again, as a fellow engineer, I find it incredible that you don't see any issue with this...

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

The Heros are making what should be minimum wage. I can only shake my head at that.

You know what's even sadder? That most Japanese hardly even think of them as heroes.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

When referring to local radiation they usually use microsieverts/hr but when referring to the amount of radiation you could receive in a year then they use millisieverts.

This unit has become consistent among ordinary people in Japan to understand radiation level. The difference between millisieverts and micorsieverts had been carefully explained by the media for the first couple months (March 11~May) when people didn't know anything about radiation level. But now we (ordinary people) are used to this unit difference. Maybe for engineers, it is ok to see "The radiation level is 0.000001servers/hr." But for ordinary people, "The radiation level is 1microservert/hr" is a lot easier to understand.

as a fellow engineer, I find it incredible that you don't see any issue with this...

As a kind fellow engineer, he dumbs it down for ordinary people to understand more easily. Thanks.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I don't know how anyone can ever trust the Japanese nuclear industry again. It's corrupt from the highest to the lowest levels. From the Nuclear Safety Commission down on to the nuclear power companies.

I don't blame these temporary workers wanting jobs and to earn a living of some kind of description but it's also a massive beech of any security system at nuclear plants. What's to stop a group of home grown terrorists becoming nuclear gypsies and slipping into a nuclear plant and planting a bomb.

Since the 9/11 terrorists attacks in America, it took steps to increase security at its nuclear plants. On at least two occasions they requested the Japanese do the same but those requests were ignored.

When it comes to the temporary workers there does not seem to be any kind of background checks to identify who the people really are. There are 140 temporary worked who worked at the Fukushima plant who TEPCO wanted to contact over radiation monitoring but failed to do so because they didn't even know who they were.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

It is refreshing to see that the heartlessness of big business owners is world wide. I guess they consider the workers as gifts from God....like mules or oxen, or other humans who look just like them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

he dumbs it down for ordinary people to understand more easily

Alternating between units to use bigger numbers doesn't make things easier to understand... never has and never will.

The government/tepco does it and they get slammed. Zichi does it and is praised for it... makes no sense to me!

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

So I guess this is the new spin by TEPCO: "WE are the victims!"

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The Japanese govt is regularly criticized on these boards for not stopping child abuse, suicides depression etc etc.

But this is one thing that they could and should stop tomorrow! The fact that no politicians are doing anything about this is the most disgraceful, shameful, disgusting thing going on in Japan at the moment.

Workers doing the most important, dangerous work in Japan at the moment need to be well paid and well looked after. If the govt is not going to take over Tepco, the very least they can do is OVERSEE the recruitment, payment and working conditions of every person who enters that worksite.

If they went further, in a matter of months they could build good accommodation for them and ensure govt doctors are doing checkups.

This really is pathetic. Shame on Japan. There don't need to be all these middle men and esp not yakuza involvement. Come on Japan, if you can't change now...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Yeah, and was not there an article not to long ago about J Govt sanctioning businesses that dealt with the Yakuza sindicate.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

j4p4nFTW, please do a little research on your own and you will find information on the nuclear plant and yakuza ties. You will not have to look hard to find the info. It is out there.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

These men could be working in clean and safe solar/wind power plants, if we'd get on the right path.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@TheBigPicture

That would be true ... except that power plants that don't emit any harmful stuff would need a lot less people working. That's the only reason why NPPs employ so many people, that the companies can easily replace ones who have been exposed, and to minimize the radiation effects on each individual ... so big companies like TEPCO can easily shrug off any medical claims caused by radiation.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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