8 companies ordered to stop illegal labor practice at Fukushima nuclear plant – ‘We knew it was illegal, but we had no other choice to secure profits’Posted by Jim at Wednesday, December 12, 2012
(Asahi Shimbun) – The government will order eight companies to end an illegal dispatch arrangement that allowed a subcontractor to instruct workers to labor under dangerous conditions at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.
The labor ministry has already called on plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Tokyo Energy & Systems Inc., a TEPCO group company, to enhance monitoring over subcontractors at the plant.
The decision means the ministry has effectively acknowledged that an illegal structure of multilayer contractors threatened the safety of workers. TEPCO has consistently denied any illegal setup.
In the scandal, the president of Access Aomori, a construction company in Aomori Prefecture, ordered workers to cover their dosimeters with lead plates to keep radiation dose readings artificially low during pipe work on 1 December 2011, at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The workers were not allowed to continue working at a nuclear plant if their dose readings exceeded safety levels.
A criminal investigation is expected against Access Aomori and its president over the practice.
But Access Aomori also violated labor laws by engaging in a practice known as disguised contracting. Although it was a subcontractor, it accepted 10 workers dispatched by other companies and directly gave them instructions for work at the plant.
TEPCO awarded Access Aomori a contract through its parent, Build-Up, a construction company in Fukushima Prefecture. The president of Access Aomori, 55, served as a director at Build-Up.
The labor ministry concluded that the arrangement violated the Employment Security Law as well as the Worker Dispatch Law, which bans dispatching temporary workers to the construction industry.
It plans to order Build-Up, Access Aomori and six other businesses, which are either small or owned by individual operators, to end the practice.
“We knew it was illegal, but we had no other choice to secure profits,” said the manager of one of the six businesses.
It will be the first time for the labor ministry to issue a correction order to more than one company in connection with recovery work at the Fukushima plant. […]
The practice of disguised contracting has come under fire because the employers’ responsibility for workers becomes ambiguous and the businesses involved keep the workers’ wages low. […]