An inquiry has revealed that contractors at Japan’s crippled nuclear plant in Fukushima recruit homeless people for clean-up operations.
The investigation found that the contractors use homeless people to work in the dangerous decontamination project with salaries below the minimum wage of about USD 6.50 per hour.
“We are an easy target for recruiters,” said 57-year-old homeless man Shizuya Nishiyama, who has been recruited to scrub down radioactive hotpots at Fukushima.
He said that some labor brokers “say to us, ‘Are you looking for work? Are you hungry?’ And if we have not eaten anything, they then offer to find us a job.”
Yasuhiro Aoki, a Baptist pastor and leader of homeless support group Sendai Night Patrol Group, said, “Without any information about potential dangers, many homeless people are just put into dormitories – and the fees for lodging and food automatically docked from their wages. Then, at the end of the month, they are left with no pay at all.”
A 2011 law that regulates decontamination puts the Japanese Environment Ministry in charge of managing the clean-up mission. However, the same law loosely controls contractors, making it possible for them to win radiation removal contracts without observing the basic rights of the workers.
Top contractors, including Kajima Corp, Taisei Corp and Shimizu Corp are responsible for monitoring the hiring, safety records and suitability of hundreds of small firms involved in Fukushima’s decontamination.
Officials say the clean-up operation at Fukushima plant is slow due to a shortage of workers.
The Fukushima plant has leaked radiation into air, soil and the Pacific Ocean ever since it was hit by a nine-magnitude earthquake and a devastating tsunami on March 11, 2011.
The tremor triggered a nuclear crisis by knocking out power to cooling systems and reactor meltdowns at the nuclear power plant on Japan’s northeast coast.
More than 18,000 people were left dead or missing in the disaster.
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