According to Sasa – the homeless people in the train station are potential laborers that he can dispatch to contractors in Japan’s nuclear disaster zone for a bounty of $100 a head.
“This is how labor recruiters like me come in every day,” Sasa says, as he strides past men sleeping on cardboard and clutching at their coats against the early winter cold.
Cleaning up industrial radioactive fallout is the most undesirable job in the world, and it seems the only way to find people willing to work for minimum wage is to go out and recruit the homeless. After all, they don’t have much else to do.
When the March 2011 earthquake hit, followed by a massive tsunami that leveled villages across Japan’s northeast coast – it began the next hazardous disaster – the multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant. The disaster is still prevalent today, and causing immense damage to humans, fish, and all other life.
Now, three years later, the crucial clean up of the Fukushima disaster is behind schedule. The slow effort has been blamed on a lack of oversight and a shortage of workers, according to a Reuters analysis of contracts and interviews with dozens of those involved.
In October, homeless men were rounded up at Sendai’s train station by Sasa, then put to work clearing radioactive soil and debris in Fukushima City for less than minimum wage, according to police and accounts of those involved. The men reported up through a chain of three other companies to Obayashi, Japan’s second-largest construction company.
Now the Japanese mob is being charged with illegally accessing the construction giant Obayashi Corp’s network of decontamination subcontractors and illegally sending workers to the government-funded project.
Obayashi, however, has not been accused of any wrongdoing. But the series of arrests has shown that members of Japan’s three largest mob syndicates – Yamaguchi-gumi, Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai – were setting up a “black market” recruit of laborers under their company name.
“We are taking it very seriously that these incidents keep happening one after another,” said Junichi Ichikawa, a spokesman for Obayashi. He said the company tightened its scrutiny of its lower-tier subcontractors in order to shut out gangsters, known as the yakuza. “There were elements of what we had been doing that did not go far enough.”
Sadly, a large number of these homeless people recruited are not being paid even the minimum wage and end up with next to nothing after fees are taken out of their checks to pay for food and lodging.
The biggest problem is where to put the radioactive debris. Apparently Japan’s budget has a provision for an intermediate storage facility designed to hold up to 28 million cubic meters for about 30 years, but that isn’t going into effect until next year. For now though, being so behind schedule is a major issue to the local residents, who haven’t been able to move back into their homes since the onset of this tragedy.
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