National

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

by Sarah Suk

Staff Writer

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.

Information from Kyodo added