Foreign Trainees Used in the Cleanup of Fukushima Nuke Plant

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Foreign workers who have been employed at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant are pictured in Fukushima Prefecture.
Despite ban, foreign trainees working at crippled Fukushima nuclear plant
May 1, 2018
FUKUSHIMA — At least four foreign technical intern trainees are working at the construction site on the premises of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant despite the policy of its operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), that bans the employment of such trainees there, the Mainichi has learned.
TEPCO has acknowledged to the Mainichi that the foreigners are indeed at work at the plant in Fukushima Prefecture. The plant has been shut down due to the core meltdown accidents at some of its nuclear reactors after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan.
A TEPCO official said that the practice of letting the trainees work does not match the intentions of the Technical Intern Training System. “We will demand our contractors to thoroughly check the residency status (of their foreign workers). We will do our own checks too,” the official said.
The Mainichi investigation has found that the four Vietnamese and other trainees are in their 20s or 30s and two of them just arrived in Japan last year and thus speak little Japanese. Two more foreign construction workers operate inside the grounds of the Fukushima plant.
The six workers, employed by a Tokyo-based subcontractor of a major construction company, are involved in laying the foundations of a new facility designed to burn rubble or trees with potential radioactive contamination. The work began in November last year.
According to TEPCO, the area the six workers are assigned to is outside the radiation controlled area where protection from radiation is necessary. Although they are inside the premises of the nuclear power plant, they did not receive training on how to protect themselves from radiation, and there is no need to control their radiation exposure, the company said.
The six workers are made to wear dosimeters but told the Mainichi that they were not aware of the amount of radiation they have received.
The Technical Intern Training System is designed to transfer technology to developing countries, but Vietnam does not have nuclear power plants where workers could be exposed to radiation. The Vietnamese government ended a plan to construct a nuclear power plant in 2016 due to a shortage of funds and out of consideration of public opposition following the nuclear disaster at the TEPCO plant in 2011.
TEPCO officials told a news conference in February 2017 that the company wanted to protect the working environment with its own control measures as the training system was designed for the trainees to acquire knowledge and experience in Japan and pass that on to people at home.
A TEPCO official told the Mainichi that the company does not accept technical intern trainees to work at locations even outside the radiation controlled areas, adding that the company intends to strengthen the contractual management of its contractors.
The president of the construction company that hires the six foreigners said that he was told by the main contractor to refrain from using foreign workers as much as possible. “But our industry cannot carry on without foreigners any longer,” he said.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, some 55,000 foreigners were reported to have worked in the construction sector in 2017, more than four times the number recorded five years earlier. Out of the 2017 total, some 37,000 were technical intern trainees.
(Japanese original by Shunsuke Sekiya, Chiba Bureau)
 
 
Foreign workers vital for Japanese contractor in cleanup at Fukushima nuke plant
May 1, 2018
FUKUSHIMA — Foreign technical intern trainees have been employed in what is said to be a 40-year-long decommissioning operation underway at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) in the wake of devastating core meltdowns in 2011. While they are not supposed to be there under TEPCO policy, they are still considered indispensable by their employer, commissioned by TEPCO.
The homelands of the interns include Vietnam, a country that abandoned plans to import a nuclear reactor from Japan two years ago. As trainees, they are supposed to “transfer” their experiences in Japan to their compatriots back home. But in the case of Vietnam, there is no chance of using such know-how in the non-nuclear country. What is going through the minds of the trainees as they engage in this work?
“Hosha-kei, hosha-kei, hosha-kei,” one foreign worker repeated when the Mainichi Shimbun asked six workers from Vietnam and elsewhere about their job at the plant in February. It was not clear whether he meant radiation, radioactivity or a dosimeter.
“The job is easy and many Japanese workers are with us. I think (safety) is OK,” said another foreign worker who had the best command of the Japanese language in the group. The location they started working last fall is outside the radiation controlled areas and everyone there is in ordinary workers’ outfits.
The president of the Tokyo-based company that employs the six has nothing but praise for them. “People say they are so good at their work. I depend on them very much.” The six workers make up two-thirds of the company’s workforce, which also includes three Japanese nationals.
When the company was founded some 30 years ago it employed over 20 Japanese workers in their 20s, but now foreigners are vital for its operations. Says the president: “Japanese youngsters quit easily but foreigners stick with us because they borrow heavily to come to Japan and cannot go home at least for three years,” a requirement for technical intern trainees.
The six each borrowed between 1.2 million and 1.5 million yen to pay for their trip to Japan and other expenses. Four of them are paying back the debt as they work. They all share a one-story, three-room wooden apartment near the plant that includes a small dining room and a kitchen.
When one male foreign worker who barely spoke Japanese was asked why he came to Japan, he replied in Japanese, “Okane” (money).
The workers have not told their families they are working at the nuclear plant. “My family would worry and tell me to come home,” one man said in broken Japanese.
(Japanese original by Shunsuke Sekiya, Chiba Bureau)
 
 
TEPCO: Foreign trainees worked at Fukushima nuclear plant
May 2, 2018
Six people in the government’s foreign technical trainee program worked at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant until the end of April despite Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s ban on such dispatches.
A TEPCO official on May 1 said the company had failed to sufficiently check the situation concerning workers at the nuclear plant.
The utility in February 2017 said it would not have foreign trainees work at the plant, which has continued to leak radiation since being struck by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
The six workers were employed by a subcontractor of Tokyo-based Hazama Ando Corp.
They started working at the plant between October and December last year and were involved in construction of an incinerator on the premises to destroy contaminated protective clothing and other materials.
They were not required to wear protective gear against radiation because they worked outside the radiation-controlled area.
“We will ask prime contractors once more to check the status of workers (under their supervision),” the TEPCO official said.
The company said it also intends to check whether other foreign trainees have ended up working at the plant.
The purpose of the foreign trainee program is to pass down skills and expertise that interns can use to help their home countries. However, a number of cases have shown that companies are exploiting the program to obtain cheap labor, sometimes for dangerous tasks.
In March, it was revealed that a Vietnamese trainee was involved in decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture but had not been told of the potential hazards.
A Justice Ministry official said decontamination work is an inappropriate job for foreign trainees.
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Six foreign trainees worked at Fukushima nuclear plant despite ban

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May 1, 2018
Six people enrolled in a foreign trainee program participated in construction work at the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, despite the plant operator’s ban on program participants working at the complex, officials said Tuesday.
The case is the latest in a string of inappropriate practices involving foreign trainees under the government’s Technical Intern Training Program, often criticized as a cover to import cheap labor.
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. had said in February last year that it would not permit foreign trainees to work at the plant, which was crippled by the 2011 quake and tsunami disaster, even though workers in some parts of the plant are not required to wear protective gear or dosimeters.
The six people were hired by one of Tepco’s subcontractors. “We deviated from our independent rules on employment. We will make our subcontractors thoroughly check the terms of their contracts,” a Tepco official said.
According to the utility, the foreign trainees took part in groundwork at the plant starting in November last year outside the areas where protective measures against radiation are needed. The trainees had not received any training on how to protect themselves from radiation.
The foreign trainee program was introduced in 1993 with the aim of transferring skills to developing countries. But the scheme — which is applicable to agriculture and manufacturing, among other sectors — has drawn criticism as a number of harsh and exploitative cases have been reported.
As of the end of 2017, Japan had received a total of about 270,000 foreigners under the training program. By nationality, Vietnamese accounted for the largest proportion of the total, followed by Chinese and Filipinos.
Earlier in the year, several Vietnamese trainees hired by construction companies in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, and Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, were found to have engaged in radioactive contamination cleanup work in Fukushima.
The Justice Ministry was conducting a probe into the companies hiring trainees, saying that decontamination work does not fit the purpose of the trainee program.

Contractors siphoned 1.6 million yen off pay of Vietnamese trainees sent to Fukushima

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TOKYO — Construction firms skimmed roughly 1.6 million yen off the danger allowances of three Vietnamese technical trainees they sent to do cleanup work in the Fukushima nuclear disaster area over a period of seven months, the Environment Ministry announced on April 12.
The ministry punished four firms over the finding, including the construction firm “Creation” in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, and a prime contractor. The firms were suspended from participating in bidding for public projects for one month from April 13.
According to the Environment Ministry, Creation skimmed up to 4,600 yen per day off trainees’ danger allowances from September to December 2016, and March to May 2017, when they were working at home demolition sites in Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture.
(Japanese original by Kazuhiro Igarashi, Science & Environment News Department)

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.
 

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

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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.
 

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.

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.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/09/29/national/crime-legal/hazama-ando-pair-charged-alleged-expense-padding-fukushima-cleanup-work/#.WdEIyBdx3rc