The Environment Ministry has admitted danger pay has not been reaching some laborers entitled to a hefty bonus for their work on decontamination projects near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Unscrupulous employers likely pocketed the missing cash, but the ministry says it will neither penalize them nor name and shame them because that "would have a big adverse effect," an official in charge of the matter said.
Many cleanup workers are eligible to daily allowance of 10,000 yen ($108) on top of their regular wage in recognition of the risk they face from radiation exposure.
It is thought that hundreds of workers failed to receive this, but the number could be much higher.
On Feb. 8, the ministry said it had identified seven projects in which workers did not receive the full amount.
In November 2012, The Asahi Shimbun aired allegations of nonpayment. Following that reporting, about 100 alleged victims petitioned the Environment Ministry for action.
The ministry took its time in responding. But on Jan. 22, it ordered contractors, including those with central- or local-government decontamination contracts, to investigate the allegations of nonpayment.
The contractors reported to the ministry that they found evidence that it happened in six of the 33 projects already completed and in one project that was still ongoing.
The ministry does not know exactly how many workers received less than they should have because it did not oblige contractors to reveal those figures.
But a decontamination project often involves anywhere from several hundred to several thousand laborers. Therefore, the number of individuals deprived of danger pay is likely to be in three figures and could be significantly higher.
The Environment Ministry plans to issue a written demand to contractors involved that they now make back-payments to the workers concerned. But it will stop short of naming them publicly or imposing punitive measures.
The nonpayment issue is one that, under normal conditions, could result in the offending contractors being suspended temporarily from bidding for further public-works projects from the Environment Ministry.
In muting its response, the ministry apparently hopes to prevent the scandal from spreading.
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