TEPCO allows contractors to dip into ‘labor fund’ increase via The Mainichi

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), after announcing last November that “labor funds” would be increased for contract work on the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, told contractors that not all the money had to go to wage increases, effectively reneging on its earlier announcement, it has been learned.

When contracting out work, in addition to base money for wages, TEPCO sets aside extra funds to pay workers at the plant based on radiation exposure and the type of work they do. However, until a Nov. 8 announcement the company had not revealed exact numbers, saying that doing so would “affect future contracts and bids.” This was criticized as encouraging contractors and subcontractors to dip into the labor funds.

When TEPCO announced “emergency safety measures” for the Fukushima plant on Nov. 8 last year, it revealed that until then it had been setting aside 10,000 yen of these extra funds per worker. In order to improve workers’ wages, however, the utility said it would increase this amount by another 10,000 yen per day starting with work contracted the following month. This was also clearly indicated in documents the company distributed to contractors.

TEPCO president Naomi Hirose said at a press conference, “I ask that prime contractors thoroughly enact (wage improvements). Workers will be aware of the 10,000 yen increase, so we ask that contractors follow through.”

However, on Nov. 29, TEPCO sent a message to its contractors in the name of the chief of its supplies division. The message concerned the Nov. 8 announcement, and apologized that “the measure had not been understood correctly, bringing confusion to our business partners.” It read that the increase of 10,000 yen was “for making efforts to improve workers’ wages” but “does not mean that the amount (paid to workers) will be increased by 10,000 yen.”

A representative of TEPCO’s PR department told the Mainichi Shimbun, “The wages paid to workers are decided in contracts made between workers and subcontractors, so we explained that the labor funds we set and the actual wages paid to workers are different.” Furthermore, the PR official said the increase of 10,000 to 20,000 yen in daily extra labor funds was “introduced as a representative case, but the actual amount could be lower.” The official would not discuss the actual amount of increases made because it was “a contract matter.”

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