TOKYO (AP) — Stigma, pay cuts, and risk of radiation exposure are among the reasons why 3,000 employees have left the utility at the center of Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster. Now there’s an additional factor: better paying jobs in the feel good solar energy industry.
“No one is going to want to work there, if they can help it, said Akihiro Yoshikawa, who quit TEPCO in 2012.
After leaving he started a campaign called “Appreciate Fukushima Workers,” trying to counter what he calls the “giant social stigma” attached to working at the Fukushima plant.
Many of the workers were also victims of the nuclear disaster, as residents of the area, and lost their homes to no-go zones, adding to personal hardships. They also worry about the health effects of radiation on their children.
The Fukushima stigma is such that some employees hide the fact they work at the plant. They even worry they will be turned away at restaurants or that their children will be bullied at school after a government report documented dozens of cases of discrimination.
While TEPCO is out of favor with the public, the skills and experience of its employees that span the gamut of engineers, project managers, maintenance workers and construction and financial professionals, are not.
Energy industry experience is in particular demand as the development of solar and other green energy businesses is pushed along in Japan by generous government subsidies.
“It’s about the human network and the TEPCO employees have all the contacts,” said Travers, who says he has recruited about 20 people from TEPCO and is hoping to get more.
Yoshikawa, the former TEPCO maintenance worker, said he has received several offers for green-energy jobs that paid far better than his salary at TEPCO of 3 million yen ($30,000) a year.