This has got to be a new low for TEPCO, though TEPCO continues to surprise.
From Mainichi Shinbun (1/4/2014; part):
TEPCO demands employees who were displaced by Fukushima I NPP accident to return [part of] the compensation money
It has been revealed by people concerned that since last spring TEPCO has been demanding its employees who have been displaced by the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident to practically return the compensation money of several million yen [tens of thousands of US dollars] to over 10 million yen [over US$100,000] that they each received. ... Because of this demand to return money, young TEPCO employees in their 20s are quitting the job in droves, which could jeopardize the work to restore the plant.
One male employee had his compensation cut off in fall of 2012. The reason was that "he moved to a rental house in the area with no entry restriction in summer of 2011, at which time the evacuation due to the accident is considered by TEPCO to have been over." [In TEPCO's logic,] since he had lived in a rental house before the move, the evacuation was over when he moved to another rental house. However, compensations for people who are not TEPCO employees are not cut off when they relocate.
What surprised him was a document he received last spring from TEPCO's "Fukushima Nuclear Compensation Counseling Office" which is in charge of compensation. The title of the document said "Adjustment that we would humbly deduct [from future payment]", and the body text said "It has been confirmed that the amount that we have already paid you and the amount that has been correctly computed differ," and the difference amounts to several million yen. It looks TEPCO has decided that several million yen that he received after he moved (summer of 2011) was "in excess".
The employee called the Counseling Office and asked what it meant by "deduct". The answer was that the amount he received in excess would be offset by the future payment. Since he has no future payment coming, as the compensation was cut off, this is practically a demand for the return of money. He further asked, "Are you telling me to return right now?" The answer was "We haven't decided how to have the money returned."
The man asked the Nuclear Damage Compensation Dispute Resolution Center for mediation of settlement in 2013. The Center rejected TEPCO's claim and considered the evacuation was still ongoing for the man and threw out the obligation to return the compensation money. The Center's settlement offer would have TEPCO to pay additional several million yen to the man, but TEPCO refused the offer.
From testimony from multiple sources, there are at least 15 employees who are asked to return the money, and the total exceeds 100 million yen [US$1 million]. One employee told Mainichi that "there are about 100 employees whose compensations have been cut off. Most of them have been asked to return the money."
In Fukushima Prefecture in October [last year], TEPCO held an informational meeting between the top management and the employees. Mainichi Shinbun obtained the audio data of the meeting. The employees angrily told the management, "Everyone is pissed that they are required to pay back the money that was transferred [to their bank accounts]." The management said they would investigate, but there has been no change.
100 million yen. A pittance for TEPCO. Just claw back the retirement money from the then-chairman Katsumata and then-president Shimizu. But instead, they want to collect from its own employees who have been working in the irradiated, wrecked nuclear power plant.
Also from Mainichi (1/4/2014; part):
Demand to return the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident compensation money: "We worked in the high radiation[, and we get this]"
One of the male employees who have been asked by TEPCO to return the compensation money worked under the then-plant manager Masao Yoshida right after the start of the Fukushima I Nuclear Plant accident to restore the plant. He worked in the high radiation environment, shaking [with fear of high radiation]. But the company's treatment is cold. Losing hope, young employees quit, one after another. Morale has degraded significantly, and dark clouds are hanging over the decommission work.
The employee is from outside Fukushima Prefecture. After he joined TEPCO, he has spent long years in Fukushima I and II, and continued his work with pride. He has been active in the local community, and says "This is my home."
"I can't ruin my home any further." On March 12, 2011 when the Reactor 1 building exploded, he and his colleagues forced their shaking legs to move and worked. After work, they returned to the anti-seismic building located about 300 meters from Reactor 1, and found the plant manager Yoshida shouting with anger in the teleconference with the TEPCO headquarter [in Tokyo]. But Yoshida was kind to the local employees. He says he was cheered by Yoshida a number of times. "You are all doing great," Yoshida would say.
He was doing the hard work which he felt worthwhile. Then a letter arrived last spring. It said [TEPCO] wanted the return of part of the compensation money, and instructed that he sign the enclosed agreement and send back. "I can't believe it." No matter how many times he read the letter, it was an "invoice" the company sent to him. He was so mortified he cried. He couldn't sleep for days. His colleagues also received the same letter. They feel dark and gloomy at the site, and morale has taken the nosedive.
The monthly salary of the employees was cut by 20% after the start of the accident to begin with. On top of it, the cut off of compensation money (2012) and request for the return of the compensation money (2013 spring) followed. Already, a dozen people, mostly young people in their 20s, left the company. They include people who worked with him to restore the plant. "We all felt responsible, that 'We have caused trouble because of the nuclear power plant we've been operating'. We've worked, clenching our teeth." But they were discouraged by TEPCO's treatment. The worker couldn't say "Don't give up yet" to his colleague who told him he was leaving.
"You did all you could in the high radiation. We will take good care of you." That's what Yoshida told him. "If Mr. Yoshida were still alive, it may not have been this way," he sometimes wonders. "I don't feel like I can go on, but I'll do my best for my home." He hangs on, and goes to work in his TEPCO uniform.
The work uniform of this employee. He said to Mainichi, "After the accident, I can't dry it outside after the wash, for the fear of how the neighbors may think."
Here we go again, sadly. Instead of directing anger to the powerful (whether it is the national government or a large corporation like TEPCO), we pick a far easier target - like a TEPCO employee who has been working at the wrecked plant with the sense of responsibility to his adopted "home".
From my 2/29/2012 post, Dr. Jun Shigemura, psychiatrist at National Defence Medical College who treated the workers at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in an interview with Germany's Der Spiegel:
Many come from the area around the plant, the tsunami washed away their homes, their families had to evacuate. The workers have lost their homes, their loved ones are far away and the public blames them, because they work for TEPCO. Many think that TEPCO is responsible for the catastrophe. The workers weren't seen as heroes as they were in Europe. One time, somebody donated fresh vegetables for the workers, because TEPCO at that point wasn't able to provide fresh food inside the evacuation zone. But the donation was made anonymously, because those who gave it didn't want to be caught helping TEPCO workers.
I am currently treating a man in his early forties. He had a house on the coast close to Daiichi that was destroyed by the tsunami. That's when he lost his 7-year-old son. The man had to flee and he tried to rent an apartment somewhere else. But the landlord rejected him because he works for TEPCO. When he finally found a flat the neighbors posted a paper on his door: TEPCO workers get out.