The labor ministry warned three companies to get their act together after it emerged the firms illegally sent workers to the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
This was the first time that disciplinary measures have been handed out to companies dispatching workers to deal with the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The companies were ordered to improve their business activities.
The Nagasaki Regional Labor Bureau handed down the disciplinary measures to three companies based in Nagasaki Prefecture. They are Yamato Engineering Service and Sowa Kogyo, both of Sasebo, and Aguresu of Nagasaki city.
Between July and August 2011, Yamato sent 510 workers to install piping at the Fukushima plant, even though the dispatched workers law prohibits sending workers for such purposes.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima plant, contracted the work to a subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd. Some of the workers involved in the project were dispatched from more than one company, another violation of the law.
"We gave instructions to Yamato to take measures to prevent a recurrence, but it was difficult to investigate the employment conditions for subcontractors," a Hitachi official said.
Of the 510 workers, Sowa Kogyo dispatched 169 to Yamato and Aguresu sent the remaining 341. Another four companies were also involved, but they were not subject to administrative disciplinary measures apparently because they had not completed the proper paperwork required of companies that dispatch workers.
Although several thousands of people work on any given day at the Fukushima plant, only a small number are TEPCO employees. Most of the workers come from all over Japan through various subcontractors.
There are a number of subcontractors that have not complied with the law. For example, Yamato in the past was temporarily banned from taking part in public works projects because a former company executive was found to have associated with gangsters in 2009.
The latest incident came to light after a worker from Nagasaki Prefecture notified the labor ministry in July 2012 through the Labor Lawyers Association of Japan about the shady practices.
"It took close to a year for disciplinary measures to be handed down. The central government was slow in responding," said Yosuke Minaguchi, association secretary-general. "Although TEPCO also had responsibility since it commissioned the work, it was unable to resolve the issue."
This is the first time the labor ministry has released the names of companies that are being disciplined.
In December, the ministry issued instructions to eight companies to change how they were doing subcontracting work. Workers used by those companies used lead covers on dosimeters to conceal the actual levels of radiation to which they were exposed.
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