The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Vietnamese trainee paid US$19 a day to do decontamination work near crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan

15 March, 2018,
Japan introduced the training programme for foreign workers in 1993 with the aim of transferring skills to developing countries. But the scheme has drawn criticism for giving Japanese companies a cover to import cheap labour
15 march 2018 vietnamese worker decontamination.jpg
A Vietnamese man who came to Japan under a foreign trainee programme was made to engage in radioactive decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture without his knowledge, a foreign workers support group heard.
At an event organised by the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, the 24-year-old man, who declined to be named, said he would have “never come to Japan” if he had known he would be doing that work near where a nuclear disaster occurred in 2011.
The Vietnamese said a construction company in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, hired him as a trainee, but did not tell him the work involved removing decontaminated material from around where the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the days after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan in March 2011.
Japan introduced the training programme for foreign workers in 1993 with the aim of transferring skills to developing countries. But the scheme, applicable to agriculture and manufacturing among other sectors, has drawn criticism at home and abroad for giving Japanese companies a cover to import cheap labour.
15 march 2018 vietnamese worker decontamination2
According to the network, the Vietnamese man arrived in Japan in September 2015, and his contract only stated he would be engaging in work involving “construction machinery, dismantling, and civil engineering.”
Without any explanation about decontamination, he was told to remove the surface soil from roads and nearby residences in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, between October 2015 and March 2016.
He also took part in dismantling buildings in the town of Kawamata in the prefecture between September and December in 2016 before an evacuation order for the area was lifted.
15 march 2018 vietnamese worker decontamination3
The man became suspicious about the work after seeing someone measuring radiation levels at the work sites, and he discovered the nature of the work after contacting the Zentoitsu Workers Union, an organisation helping foreign workers in Japan.
He also received only 2,000 yen (US$19) a day for decontamination work, less than a third of the 6,600 yen set as the standard by the Environment Ministry, in addition to his monthly salary of about 150,000 yen as a foreign trainee.
According to the union, this is the first known case of a foreign trainee’s involvement in decontamination work.
The Justice Ministry’s immigration bureau and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare released statements on Wednesday, saying decontamination work does not fit the purpose of the trainee programme.
“If the content of training is significantly different from the plan, it can be illegal,” the immigration bureau said.

March 16, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan: Foreign ‘interns’ doing radioactive decontamination work at Fukushima

14 march 2018 Foreign interns  decontamination work.jpg
March 14, 2018
Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan expressed concern that foreign ‘interns’ working in Japan under the Technical Intern Training Programme (TITP) were being made to engage in dangerous radioactive decontamination work at locations close to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. ‘A’, a Vietnamese national, had worked for over two years at decontamination sites before, fearing for his health, he escaped from his company dormitory. ‘A’ states he was never told he was engaged in decontamination work, and never received any special training. He was paid just above the minimum wage (JPY 145,000, or approximately USD 1,400 per month), apparently less than what Japanese nationals doing the same work were receiving. In addition, the company he worked for paid him only one third of the JPY 6,000 (approximately USD 60) daily bonus for decontamination work provided by the government, in violation of government policy.
Though ostensibly a programme to transfer advanced skills to developing countries, TITP has been widely criticized as a means for Japanese companies to exploit cheap labour. Domestic and international human rights NGOs, UN human rights bodies, and even the US State Department has expressed concern that the programme results in human trafficking. ‘A’ paid USD 15,000 to brokers and other middle men in Vietnam before arriving in Japan on the TITP, ensuring that he was in debt bondage from the outset.

March 16, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Vietnamese trainee misled into Fukushima decontamination work

Vietnamese trainee alleges he was misled into taking part in Fukushima decontamination work
March 7, 2018
The Justice Ministry is investigating a case involving a Vietnamese man brought to Japan under the government’s foreign trainee program who alleges he was duped into taking part in cleanup work in areas devastated by the 2011 nuclear disaster, authorities said Wednesday.
The ministry confirmed by telephone that the officials have been looking into the case of the 24-year-old man who worked for an Iwate Prefecture-based construction firm. The company wasn’t available for comment as of Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the Nikkei daily reported the firm has denied claims that it violated labor laws. In the report, the firm asserted instead that the man, who requested anonymity through the union, was assigned the same duties as his Japanese coworkers, which didn’t pose any threat to workers’ health.
But according to the Tokyo-based Zentoitsu Workers Union, which represents the man, he was supposed to conduct dismantling and public engineering work, but was instead assigned with cleanup work in contaminated areas in Fukushima Prefecture, exposing him to radiation.
The group’s Secretary-General Shiro Sasaki, who is well-versed on trainee issues and familiar with the case, said the 24-year-old came to Japan in September 2015 after signing a contract with the firm.
He was then sent to Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture more than a dozen times to decontaminate the city’s residential areas between October 2015 and March 2016.
Afterwards, he was engaged in dismantling buildings in an exclusion zone in the Fukushima town of Kawamata before the authorities lifted restrictions on the evacuation zone due to high levels of radiation.
The man claims he was not informed he would be cleaning up areas contaminated after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“(The man’s claims) suggest that he might have been deceived and brought to Japan to conduct cleanup work,” Sasaki said.
Sasaki said the man’s employer might have abused the Labor Contract Act, Labor Standard Act and Industrial Safety and Health Act.
Sasaki said the union is assisting in the ongoing negotiations between the Vietnamese man and the construction firm and are seeking compensation worth the amount he would have been paid if he had completed the rest of his three-year contract.
According to Sasaki, the man was receiving a monthly wage of about ¥140,000, while Japanese workers conducting similar cleanup work earn nearly three times as much.
The government-backed Technical Intern Trainee Program was designed to support foreign nationals in their acquisition of technical skills but in reality has been exploited to make up for the shortage of unskilled laborers in Japan.
“(Technical trainees) shouldn’t be forced to conduct such work … which may pose a threat to one’s health; it’s undeniable that radiation may be hazardous,” Sasaki said.
The Vietnamese quit the company last November out of concern for his health after it ignored his requests to have the situation explained.
The Japan Times was able to access records showing the man had been exposed to radiation while working in Kawamata. According to the labor union, the employer hid this information from him.
Sasaki said the employer also denied the man allowances given to those working under hazardous conditions.
“Above all, decontamination work is very dangerous and requires the trainee’s consent,” said Shoichi Ibusuki, a lawyer versed on labor issues, who supports foreign trainees and interns. “It’s not the type of work you engage someone in who is not aware of accompanying risks. It’s more of a humanitarian rather than a legal issue.”
Ibusuki stressed the Vietnamese man’s case shows flaws in the system, which is aimed at helping foreign nationals from developing countries gain skills they could use back home.
Companies accepting foreign workers under the trainee system are required to submit a detailed plan of their training to a Justice Ministry body tasked with overseeing the program. Ibusuki speculated the trainee’s employer might have kept the scope of the man’s duties hidden when submitting the documents to the government.
Asked to comment on the Vietnamese man’s case, an official said the ministry was verifying the information it had obtained, including claims the trainee’s duties differed from work described in the contract.
The official said there was a possibility the employer had violated labor laws and if the abuse is proven, the ministry would consider penalties. The law, under which violation of the trainees’ rights is subject for punishment, went into effect last November.
The official explained that labor laws do not forbid employment of foreign nationals at decontamination work sites and in theory employers accepting foreign technical trainees may have them conduct cleanup work at contaminated sites. But the official said that a vocational training program needs to be aligned with the objective of the training system.
“It’s hard to imagine that a trainee could use decontamination work experience in his or her home country,” he said, indicating that such a program would likely not be authorized by the government.

March 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Hazama Ando pair charged with padding expenses during Fukushima decontaminaton work

n-fukushima-a-20170930-870x531.jpgWorkers stand on a water tank containing contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, in 2014


Two employees of general contractor Hazama Ando Corp. have been indicted without arrest for alleged fraud linked to a Fukushima radiation decontamination project.

The employees, who were indicted by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office on Thursday, are Yuichi Yamashita, 48, and Yoshiji Moro, 50, who worked at the Tohoku branch of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. in Sendai. Both have admitted to the allegations, investigative sources said.

According to the indictment, the two padded the accommodation costs for workers involved in the decontamination project by ¥41 million and submitted a false report listing ¥200 million in expenses to the Tamura Municipal Government, which ordered the project, between July and August 2015. They are suspected of cheating the city out of some ¥76 million, and of supplying manipulated receipts as the supporting documents for the expense report.

Hazama Ando said in June this year that it had overstated expenses by some ¥27 million in its report to Tamura and about ¥53 million in its report to Iwaki, another city in Fukushima Prefecture. The prosecutor’s office apparently opted not to pursue the case in Iwaki.

In a statement Thursday, Hazama Ando said the indictment of the employees was a serious matter but denied the contractor had systematic involvement in the misconduct.

An official of the Tamura Municipal Government said the city will consult with the prefectural and central governments on getting back the money it paid to cover the inflated accommodation costs.

The decontamination project is part of the prefecture’s efforts to recover from the March 2011 core meltdowns at the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

October 3, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment