Nuclear Slaves Of Fukushima
|Workers remove radioactive dirt at a Fukushima home|
At least 400 people working in the nuclear industy in Japan have died from exposure to dangerous levels of radioactivity at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant since the March 2011 disaster.
The incident at the Fukushima plant has revealed dangerous practices likened by some critics to "modern slavery" within the industry, putting the lives of untrained temporary workers at risk.
Employment brokers in Japan are notorious for recruiting temporary workers from Japan's growing number of homeless people to do dangerous jobs like cleaning nuclear reactors.
The recent poor safety record of the industry has made it hard for them to recruit staff, but the homeless are tempted by promises of much higher wages. Once the homeless are on site though things do not go as promised. Because they are temporary workers with no contracts then there are legal safeguards for them and the Japanese government refuses to address the issue because using the brokers and homeless are seen by Prime Minister Abe and his cabinet as "needed evils".
TEPCO has used such brokers since clean up at the restriction zone and nuclear plant began in June 2011.
It is thought that 5,000 people a year are employed on a short-term basis. These workers have no minimum wage guarantee, are charged for all living expenses, no maximum hours limit, and no right to file grievances about abuses. Many end up leaving extremely ill and die within days they are let go for not being able to perform their jobs. Hospitals in Fukushima have reported deaths ranging from extreme radiation sickness to pulmonary illnesses due to fine dust particles building up in the bronchial tubes and lungs.
A homeless man living in a park in Tokyo, did a cleaning job for three months at the Fukushima nuclear plant. He says he was exposed to dangerous conditions: "We were sweeping up dust and had bleepers which went off when the radiation levels were too high, but the supervisors told us not to worry, even though they were bleeping. I got out when I started to feel ill."
The company where he worked has refused to pay sickness compensation, saying there was no proof his illness was work related.
Many workers get only superficial safety training and have no idea how dangerous their jobs are, according to insiders throughout the industry.
Few have access to medical care or information while they are under work obligation. The internationally recognized safe level of radiation since 1990 has been 20 milli-sieverts per year, but Japan has refused to adopt this standard due to Tokyo's close ties to the criminal elements that run the temporary employment brokers.
One of the brokers in Fukushima replied to questions, "We run the show here. Nobody wants to be here doing this work so we use who can for as little as we can. If this work kills them then the loss is a homeless person. Their lives are miserable to begin with. We are doing them a favor by providing work."
On whether the broker thought Fukushima food was safe and if the Olympics should have a venue in Fukushima he replied, "I don't care. It's not my concern. I eat prepackaged meals from Tokyo."
TEPCO officials refused comment.
Some homeless workers say they do a shift at one nuclear plant and then work more hours in the same day at other sites throughout the Fukushima restriction area - exposing them to more radiation.