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Four Japan firms used foreign trainees to clean up at Fukushima plant after nuclear meltdowns: final report

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The government concluded Friday that four companies had used foreign trainees to perform work cleaning up radioactive contamination after the March 2011 tsunami triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The headline figure from the final report on a survey conducted by the Justice Ministry, the labor ministry and the Organization for Technical Intern Training was the same as that in the interim report, released in mid-July, which reflected results of surveying fewer than 200 companies with foreign trainee programs.
Officials visited a total of 1,018 such companies with facilities in eight prefectures in eastern and northeastern Japan, interviewing technical interns there to confirm the situation, after the issue came to light in March.
Of the four companies, one in Iwate Prefecture has been banned from accepting foreign trainees for five years. It was found to have neglected to pay allowances for decontamination work, amounting to a combined ¥1.5 million, to three trainees.
The government has issued a similar ban for three years to a firm in Fukushima Prefecture for not paying a total of ¥180,000 to three interns for overtime work.
A company in Fukushima and another in Chiba Prefecture received warnings because foreign trainees there engaged in decontamination work, albeit for short periods of time. The names of the four companies were not revealed.
Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita told a news conference that the government gave guidance for improvement to three related regulatory organizations over insufficient inspections of companies with foreign technical interns.
“We will continue to work with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the Organization for Technical Intern Training to guide regulatory organizations and companies that accept technical interns, so they will not let them engage in decontamination work. We will take proper measures when we find inappropriate cases,” Yamashita said.
In March, a Vietnamese trainee at an Iwate Prefecture-based construction firm revealed he had been assigned to take part in radioactive decontamination work without being given sufficient explanation of the tasks involved.
The government announced later that month that it would not allow companies to use such foreign trainees for the removal of radioactive contamination, as such work is not consistent with the purpose of the program.
The technical trainee program was introduced in 1993 with the aim of transferring skills to developing countries. But it has drawn criticism both at home and abroad as being a cover for importing cheap labor for industrial sectors, including manufacturing and construction, where blue-collar workers are in short supply.
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October 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima: UN says cleanup workers in danger of ‘exploitation’

16.08.2018

UN human rights experts have said the workers, most of them migrants, risked “exposure to radiation and coercion.” They have called on Japan to protect the workers cleaning up the damaged nuclear power station.

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Tens of thousands of cleanup workers at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station risk exploitation, UN human rights experts said in a statement on Thursday.

The three experts, who report to the UN Human Rights Council, warned that exposure to radiation remained a major risk for workers handling the cleanup of the plant.

“Workers hired to decontaminate Fukushima reportedly include migrant workers, asylum-seekers and people who are homeless,” said the three: Baskut Tuncak, an expert on hazardous substances, Dainius Puras, an expert on health, and Urmila Bhoola, an expert on contemporary slavery.

“We are deeply concerned about possible exploitation. The workers risk exposure to unhealthy levels of radiation not only because they work in places with high radiation but also because they work for longer hours than they should,” Tuncak told DW after the statement was released.

“They are not sufficiently trained, which exposes them to serious health risks. Also, most of them are economically vulnerable, who may not turn down the job despite hazardous working conditions,” he said.

Tuncak added that the team’s observations were based on “repeated and reliable” reports.

Read moreJapan’s TEPCO nuclear plant restarts fear of new Fukushima

Poor working conditions

TEPCO, the owner of the nuclear power station, which was damaged by a tsunami in 2011, has faced criticism for its treatment of workers involved in the cleanup, which is expected to take decades.

In July, a survey conducted by the Japanese Justice Ministry showed that four construction companies had hired foreign trainees for radioactive decontamination work at the plant.

The survey found that one of the four companies paid only 2,000 yen ($18, €16) per day to the trainees, a fraction of the 6,600 yen provided by the government as a special allowance for decontamination work.

An investigation by Reuters news agency in 2013 also found widespread labor abuses, including workers who said their pay was skimmed.

Japan must act

The UN experts called on Japanese authorities to act urgently to protect the workers.

“The government must conduct greater oversights. In cases of wrongdoing, it must prosecute the wrongdoers to set an example for others,” Tuncak said.

“The government must also allow independent experts to visit Fukushima to review the existing work conditions.”

Tuncak said Japan has not responded to several of his and other experts’ requests to visit the damaged nuclear station.

Japan dismisses UN claims

On Friday, Japan’s Foreign Ministry rejected the UN’s accusations and said the statement could unnecessarily spark worries and confusion, the Kyodo News agency reported.

“It’s regrettable, as the statement is based on one-sided allegations that could exacerbate the suffering of people in the disaster-hit areas,” the ministry said.  “We properly handled problematic cases in the past and do not regard
it as a situation which requires any urgent response,” an unnamed official at the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry told Kyodo.

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August 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Foreign Trainees for Fukushima Clean-Up

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Japanese firms used foreign trainees for Fukushima clean-up

13 July, 2018
Vietnamese in Japan for professional training were among those picking up soil as part of decontamination work at the crippled nuclear power plant
Four Japanese companies made foreign trainees who were in the country to learn professional skills take part in decontamination work after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the government said on Friday.
The discovery is likely to revive criticism of the Technical Intern Training Programme, which has been accused of placing workers in substandard conditions and jobs that provide few opportunities for learning.
The misconduct was uncovered in a probe by the Justice Ministry conducted after three Vietnamese trainees were found in March to have taken part in clean-up work in Fukushima.
The Vietnamese were supposed to do work using construction machines according to plans submitted by the company.
“But they joined simple clean-up work such as removing soil without machines,” an official said.
A powerful earthquake in March 2011 spawned a huge tsunami that led to meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing the world’s worst such accident since Chernobyl in 1986.
One of the four companies has been slapped with a five-year ban on accepting new foreign trainees as it was found to have paid only 2,000 yen (US$18) per day to the trainees out of the 6,600 yen provided by the state as a special allowance for decontamination work.
The ministry is still investigating how many trainees in the other three firms were involved.
The four companies cited in the interim report no longer send foreign trainees to help with the radiation clean-up. It did not name the four firms.
The ministry has finished its investigation into 182 construction companies that hire foreign trainees, and will look into another 820 firms by the end of September.
Japan has been accepting foreign trainees under the government programme since 1993 and there were just over 250,000 in the country in late 2017.
But critics say the trainees often face poor working conditions including excessive hours and harassment.
The number of foreign trainees who ran away from their employers jumped from 2,005 in 2012 to 7,089 in 2017, according to the ministry’s survey. Many cited low pay as the main reason for running away.
The investigation comes as Japan’s government moves to bring more foreign workers into the country to tackle a labour shortage caused by the country’s ageing, shrinking population.
The government in June said it wanted to create a new visa status to bring in foreign workers, with priority given to those looking for jobs in sectors such as agriculture that have been hardest hit by the labour shortage.
The workers would be able to stay for up to five years, but would not be allowed to bring their family members.
The government put the number of foreign workers in Japan in 2017 at 1.28 million people.
But more than 450,000 of those are foreign spouses of Japanese citizens, ethnic Koreans long settled in Japan, or foreigners of Japanese descent, rather than workers coming to Japan simply for jobs. Another nearly 300,000 are students.
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Japan firms used Vietnamese, foreign trainees at Fukushima cleanup

 July 14, 2018
Four Japanese companies have been found to made foreign trainees take part in decontamination work after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The discovery is likely to revive criticism of the foreign trainee program, which has been accused of placing workers in substandard conditions and jobs that provide few opportunities for learning, the government said Friday.
The misconduct was uncovered in a probe by the Justice Ministry conducted after three Vietnamese trainees, who were in the country to learn professional skills, were found in March to have participated in cleanup work in Fukushima.
The Vietnamese were supposed to do work using construction machines according to plans submitted by the company.
“But they joined simple cleanup work such as removing soil without machines,” an official told AFP.
A powerful earthquake in March 2011 spawned a huge tsunami that led to meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing the world’s worst such accident since Chernobyl in 1986.
The justice ministry said after the discovery this March that decontamination work was not appropriate for foreign trainees.
One of the four companies has been slapped with a five-year ban on accepting new foreign trainees, and the ministry is still investigating how many trainees in the other three firms were involved.
The ministry has finished its investigation into 182 construction companies that hire foreign trainees, and will look into another 820 firms by the end of September.
Japan has been accepting foreign trainees under the government program since 1993 and there were just over 250,000 in the country in late 2017.
But critics say the trainees often face poor work conditions including excessive hours and harassment.
The number of foreign trainees who ran away from their employers jumped from 2,005 in 2012 to 7,089 in 2017, according to the ministry survey. Many cited low pay as the main reason for running away.
The investigation comes as Japan’s government moves to bring more foreign workers into the country to tackle a labor shortage caused by the country’s aging, shrinking population.
The government in June said it wanted to create a new visa status to bring in foreign workers, with priority given to those looking for jobs in sectors such as agriculture that have been hardest hit by the labor shortage.
The workers would be able to stay for up to five years, but would not be allowed to bring their family members.
The government put the number of foreign workers in Japan in 2017 at 1.28 million people.
But more than 450,000 of those are foreign spouses of Japanese citizens, ethnic Koreans long settled in Japan, or foreigners of Japanese descent, rather than workers coming to Japan simply for jobs. Another nearly 300,000 are students.

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July 19, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Using underpaid Foreign Trainees for Fukushima’s Decontamination

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3 Vietnamese trainees newly found to have taken part in Fukushima cleanup work
Three more Vietnamese technical intern trainees were sent by a contractor to carry out decontamination work at the Fukushima nuclear disaster area, it was learned from sources including a support organization.
The number of foreign trainees known to have taken part in the decontamination work now totals four. The Organization for Technical Intern Training under the jurisdictions of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is investigating the facts behind the incidents and there is a possibility that the number will rise.
According to the Zentouitsu Workers Union based in Tokyo, the trainees in the latest incident are all males and aged 24 to 34. They came to Japan in July 2015 and joined the contractor in the city of Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, to make molds and reinforce metal bars. Instead, the trio worked on decontaminating roads and other areas in Koriyama and the city of Motomiya, Fukushima Prefecture, from April 2016 to March 2018.
A supervisory organization for the contractor reportedly explained to the union that Koriyama and Motomiya were areas free of radiation exposure.
(Japanese original by Naoki Sugi, Maebashi Bureau)
 
More Vietnamese trainees made to conduct Fukushima decontamination work, union says
Three more Vietnamese men in a foreign trainee program in Japan were made to take part in radioactive decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture, which was devastated by the March 2011 nuclear crisis, their supporters said Wednesday.
The Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau is conducting a probe, believing more foreigners may have been made to engage in inappropriate work under the Technical Intern Training Program.
Japan introduced the program 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 importing cheap labor.
According to the Zentouitsu Workers Union, which supports foreign trainees, the three Vietnamese men came to Japan in July 2015 and conducted radiation cleanup work in Fukushima Prefecture between 2016 and 2018 as trainees of a construction company in the city of Koriyama in the prefecture.
Their contracts only stated that they would be engaging in form-work installation and reinforcing steel placements, and the company did not give them a detailed explanation of the decontamination work beforehand.
In March, a Vietnamese trainee hired by a construction firm in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, said at a news conference in Tokyo that he had been misled into conducting decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture.
The Justice Ministry and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare have released statements saying that decontamination work does not fit the purpose of the trainee program.

April 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment