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Reports on worker complaint at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant - May 2011

In May 2011 several news reports appeared in Japan's English language press regarding the complaint of an Osaka day labourer who claims he accepted a job as a trucker in Miyagi Prefercture and instead was sent to work at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO):

"A jobseeker who was hired as a truck driver in Miyagi Prefecture later discovered that he had been signed up to work at the crippled nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture, and has filed a complaint with the job placement center in Osaka that found him the job...The center confirmed with the man and the agent that he worked for a period by the nuclear plant. But the confirmation came only after the contract period had ended.  The operator of the crippled nuclear plant, TEPCO, confirmed that a number of workers from 'associate' companies may be operating at the plant’s site to remove rubble or laying cables."

"An Osaka man was made to work at the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture for about two weeks, when he had been expecting to work in neighboring Miyagi Prefecture... The worker in his 60s received daily wages of about 24,000 yen, double the sum he was initially promised, but complained that the pay undervalued the work he did at the Fukushima plant...'I was finally issued with a radiation dosimeter on my fourth day of work there,' he was quoted as saying...The president of the subcontractor firm...which hired the man, told Kyodo News that its client, a construction company, requested workers who can drive 10-ton water trucks in Onagawa and the Gifu company recruited workers in Osaka...[A] support group for the man spoke out against his treatment by the employer, saying, 'It's an unpardonable act to send a day laborer in a socially weak position to a dangerous place'..."

"An Osaka day laborer who responded to an ad for a truck driver in Miyagi Prefecture found himself working beside the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station...[T]he ad did not specify where the driver was supposed to take the truck...[H]e had spent about two weeks near reactors No. 5 and No. 6...'We'd had dealings with Hokuriku Koki before and never had any problems,' [Yoji] Takeshita [of the job center] said. Masayuki Sakamoto, the president of Hokuriku Koki, told The Japan Times that they received a request from a subcontractor to place...[the] ad...'I don't know why the man ended up working at a nuclear power plant...' Sakamoto said. The Airin day laborers district has long been a source of cheap labor for utility companies and prefectures where nuclear power plants are located."

 

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited TEPCO to respond to these articles.  TEPCO sent the following response to the Resource Centre:

17 May 2011

"Regarding the three articles, we don’t have direct employment contracts with those workers because the contracts were not made by TEPCO, but by subcontractors.  The authorities are investigating the facts and the details. 

"In addition, based on a request from Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, we advised our subcontractors that they should comply with the related law and rules."  

For a related article and TEPCO's response to it, which both appeared in the Resource Centre's 11 May Weekly Update, see:

"This is the first of two reports offering a worker-centered analysis of the Fukushima nuclear disaster...TEPCO is facing great difficulties in finding workers...Job offers come not from TEPCO but from Mizukami Kogyo, a company whose business is construction and cleaning maintenance. The description...[does not contain] information about danger...Rumor has it that many of the cleanup workers are burakumin (a minority group...often associated with discrimination)...[I]t would be congruent with the logic of the nuclear industry and the difficult job situation of day laborers...[T]he vast majority of those working at Fukushima 1 were...contract laborers...[I]n 2009, Japan’s nuclear industry recruited more than 80,000 contract workers against 10,000 regular employees...[T]he nuclear industry nurtures a heavy culture of secrecy concerning the number of irradiated workers..." [refers also to General Electric, Toshiba, Hitachi, Mitsubishi] 

"Regarding the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, all of our resources are currently focused on the full containment of the situation based on the restoration roadmap that was released on April 17, 2011. Furthermore...TEPCO...firmly believes that the improvement of working conditions for all employees and productivity enhancement will allow us to achieve restoration at the earliest possible date. The article presented to us contains some descriptions that are inaccurate and not based on fact. In this response, we feel it is not appropriate to address all of the points in the article but will state that some of the items include but are not limited to the accounts of the plant’s working and living environment...TEPCO has formulated a 'Group Charter of Corporate Conduct' which has as its foundation the respect for fundamental human rights...

[video] Japan's desperate 'nuclear gypsies'
Step Vaessen, Al Jazeera 30 Jun 2011
Economic downturn has forced many of Japan's poorest people to work at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, risking exposure to dangerous levels of radiation. The growing number of so-called nuclear gypsies, who come from across the country, are working to repair the reactor crippled by the March 11 tsunami. It is a job with severe health risks that most are not willing to brave. Labour rights groups have complained to authorities about the lack of protection for the workers - who are not guaranteed training or health insurance.

On 30 June, Al Jeezera aired the following related video:

"Economic downturn has forced many of Japan's poorest people to work at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, risking exposure to dangerous levels of radiation. The growing number of so-called nuclear gypsies, who come from across the country, are working to repair the reactor crippled by the March 11 tsunami. It is a job with severe health risks that most are not willing to brave. Labour rights groups have complained to authorities about the lack of protection for the workers - who are not guaranteed training or health insurance."

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Related stories and components

Article
30 June 2011

[video] Japan's desperate 'nuclear gypsies'

Author: Step Vaessen, Al Jazeera

Economic downturn has forced many of Japan's poorest people to work at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, risking exposure to dangerous levels of radiation. The growing number of so-called nuclear gypsies, who come from across the country, are...

Read more

Company response
18 May 2011

Response by Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO): Contract worker files complaint after allegedly being "duped" to work at troubled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Read full response

Company response
11 May 2011

TEPCO response to journal article by Paul Jobin on the treatment of workers at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station

Author: Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)

Regarding the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, all of our resources are currently focused on the full containment of the situation based on the restoration roadmap that was released on April 17, 2011. Furthermore...TEPCO...firmly...

Read full response

Article
27 April 2011

Dying for TEPCO: Fukushima's Nuclear Contract Workers [Japan]

Author: Paul Jobin, director, French Center for Research on Contemporary China, Taipei Office, in Asia-Pacific Journal

This is the first of two reports offering a worker-centered analysis of the Fukushima nuclear disaster...TEPCO is facing great difficulties in finding workers...Job offers come not from TEPCO but from Mizukami Kogyo, a company whose business is...

Read more