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Labor Groups Protest Reopening of Rail Lines Near Fukushima

By William Andrews - CounterPunch, December 15, 2016

Labor activists have protested the reopening this month of a railway line in parts of northeast Japan where they believe radiation levels are still dangerous.

The Joban Line runs from Nippori Station in Tokyo to Iwanuma Station, just south of Sendai City. It is one of main connections between northeast Tokyo’s major station of Ueno up along the coast through Chiba, Ibaraki and Miyagi prefectures.

This region was severely damaged by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11th, 2011, while the subsequent Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster meant that large areas through which trains pass were contaminated by radiation.

The Joban Line was directly hit by the massive tsunami wave in 2011, sweeping train carriages away. Though parts of the line were quickly reopened that same year, two sections of the line—between Tatsuta and Odaka stations, and between Soma and Hamayoshida—remained closed, with passengers served by buses for some of the stations.

However, the operator, East Japan Railway Company (JR East), and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, have been keen to reopen the whole line as part of the northeast Japan reconstruction efforts. The Joban Line represents a valuable source of income from both passengers traveling between Sendai and Tokyo as well as freight.

Following decontamination measures, rail services resumed from Iwaki to Tatsuta in late 2014. However, north of Tatsuta lies the areas located within a 20km radius of the devastated Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which is widely considered a no-go zone.

In July this year, JR East resumed services on the 9.4-kilometer stretch between Odaka and Haranomachi stations as the evacuation order was lifted for the southern part of Minamisoma City, though few residents are willing to return to a community so close to the contaminated area. Media reports suggest only 10-20% are coming back to live in the area.

On December 10th, the previously closed 23.2-kilometer northern section of line between Soma and Hamayoshida reopened for rail services. It means passengers will now be served by a further six stations on the section, though three of these (Shinchi, Yamashita and Sakamoto stations) had to be relocated inland by up to 1.1 kilometers as an anti-tsunami measure. Along with the construction of elevated tracks, the total cost of the latest reopening is said to be 40 billion yen ($350 million).

By spring 2017, the line will be reopened between Namie and Odaka, and then later in the year between Tatsuta and Tomioka. The final section linking Tomioka and Namie, passing through somewhat infamous areas like Futaba, is set to reopen by the end of fiscal 2019 (end of March 2020).

Local tourist bodies are naturally delighted and are pulling out all the stops to attract people. At the newly reopened stations, passengers are able to buy commemorative tickets, take hiking trips, and even try on historical armor.

To our working-class brothers and sisters across the world Invitation to the International Joint Action in November in Tokyo and Seoul

By Doro-Chiba/KCTU - Transport Workers Solidarity Committee, October 23, 2016

Neoliberalism has led to a rapid increase in irregular workers and indirect employment all over the world, as well as the strengthening of monopoly, the deepening of wealth polarization, more and more privatization, and the oppression of the labor union movement.

Moreover, the intensified competition among capitalist powers has brought about the impending crisis of conflict and war, especially in Northeast Asia.

Workers of the world! We, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions Seoul Regional Council and three unions in Japan (Doro-Chiba, Kan-Nama and Minato-Godo), have decided to organize a Workers’ International Solidarity Action in November against the merciless capitalists’ oppression of the labor movement and the growing crisis of imperialist war in Northeast Asia and the Middle East.

Neoliberalism, which is controlled by the “1%” monopoly capitalists, totally deprives workers of their freedom. While the number of irregular workers and indirectly employed workers increases, public services (transportation, education, medical care, municipality, etc.) are shrinking, being privatized, and transformed into mere tools for profiteering.

Above all, the capitalists’ greed has forced the world into economic depression and the collapse of the world economy, and is drawing the world into the disaster of impending imperialist war (a world war and nuclear war).

In face of the first crisis ever to seriously threaten the survival of mankind, the international solidarity of workers is the only way to defend the world.

We workers of the world must stand together in a united struggle under the banner of international solidarity.

In 1995, South Korean workers established the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) to unite workers and stand in the vanguard of their struggles, overcoming the harsh repression of state power and capital that had existed on labor movements for a long period of time. Since then, KCTU has been relentlessly fighting and continuously moving forward.

The workers of KCTU keep fighting without fear even to die in their struggle. They go on strikes regardless of the risks of being fired or arrested. In fact, our comrade Han Sang-gyun, President of KCTU, recently received an unprecedented sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and now strives behind bars. Despite such a brutal rule of the present regime that speaks only for big capital and the far right wing, the workers never waver in their efforts and continue fighting on militantly.

This coming September, workers in South Korea are preparing to wage another robust general strike led by the public sector union. Also, 200,000 workers from all over the country will gather together in a massive protest at the People’s All-out Rally in Seoul. There the working class people will vigorously launch the decisive battle to fight back against the oppressive rule of the government and capitalism. This will pave the way for further general strikes and then link up with the struggle of the presidential election in 2017. All these militant struggles will create a new turning point toward the fundamental transformation of South Korean society.

Doro-Chiba has been carrying on the struggle against the division and privatization of Japan National Railway. It was the greatest attack on the labor movement in the Japanese postwar period. But Doro-Chiba’s 30-year consistent struggle has eventually succeeded in forcing even the reactionary Supreme Court to admit that the JR and the state power itself had committed unfair labor practices. Doro-Chiba thus achieved a historic breakthrough and started a fresh fight against JR East Company for the withdrawal and reinstatement of fired 1,047 railway workers.

The Shinzo Abe government shamelessly concealed the risk of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident, and is forcing the evacuees to move back into their hometowns where radiation levels remain dangerously high. In order to proceed with the so-called “Reconstruction of Fukushima,” Abe is desperately trying to reopen the railway line in Fukushima. Doro-Mito, a fraternal union of Doro-Chiba, has been at the forefront of the struggle to fight against the operation of contaminated trains and radiation-exposed work through repeated strikes.

In 2010, Kan-Nama waged a general strike in the ready-made mixed concrete industry for 139 days, which violently shook the monopoly in the construction industry and the domination of big cement manufacturers. The workers of Kan-Nama made a great effort to establish a labor union in every workplace and are today still striving hard to organize hundreds of thousands of workers.

Minato-Godo organizes the workers of small- and medium-sized enterprises in its community. Minato-Godo has been working hard to take back workers’ right to organize, and has succeeded in creating a strongly fortified community that can fight together against common enemies.

Now the Abe administration has launched a full-scale attack on workers. Intent on tearing up the pacifist clause of the Constitution and rushing head-on into war, Abe moves forward with further revising labor laws that force all workers into a state of unstable employment in the name of “Working-Style Reform.” We are determined to stand up against the ruthless attacks of the Abe government. We hold a National Workers’ Rally on November 6th and join our forces in an all-out effort to fight back.

The danger of nuclear war in Northeast Asia is imminent. The international solidarity between Korean and Japanese workers forged since the November Rally in 2003 is now more important than ever before. We believe it is vital to expand this into a worldwide workers’ solidarity movement. Therefore, we will link the Workers Rally in Tokyo on November 6th with the Workers’ Rally/People’s All-out Rally in Seoul on November 12th and November 13th, and ask you all to join these rallies in both countries. The capitalist assault on the working class transcends borders and has common features all around the world. Our enemy is one and the same. The working class of the world must be united to overcome every attempt to divide us. Join us in Japan and South Korea in a union of workers across races, nationalities, and borders! Let us launch a movement for fundamentally transforming society that has plunged into economic depression, large-scale unemployment, poverty, and war!

Japan Railway Workers Doro-Chiba: Fight back against forced exposure to radiation! Refuse work while exposed to radiation! Stop “reuse” of contaminated soil

International Labor Solidarity Committee of Doro-Chiba - www.doro-chiba.org, June 2016

  • Fight back against forced exposure to radiation!
  • Refuse work while exposed to radiation!
  • Stop “reuse” of contaminated soil!

In September 2013, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shamelessly lied to win the 2020 Olympics for Tokyo, claiming that the contaminated water leaking from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant was “under control” and there had been “no health problems,” nor would there be.

Now all the lies and cover-ups have been exposed. Over 1,000 contaminated water storage tanks already occupy almost all of the space at the nuclear plant site. The $300 million “ice wall” project,

once hyped as the most reliable solution for substantial reduction of contaminated water by preventing groundwater infiltration into the wrecked reactor buildings, has become a fiasco. Far from being a “wall,” it is now derided as a “lace curtain.” As many as 173 child thyroid cancer or suspected cancer cases have appeared in the last five years. The incidence rate in Fukushima ranges to around 50 times that of the general population.

The Abe government is forcing evacuees to move back to villages, towns and cities in Fukushima Prefecture that remain heavily contaminated. It is doing this by terminating all compensation payments available for evacuees by 2018. This amounts to economic coercion. The Japanese government has achieved a change to radiation exposure standards from 1mSv/y to 20mSv/y. According to the Japanese government’s post-disaster decontamination target, 20mSv/y is now acceptable. This is 20 times the maximum allowed dose for the general public! Moreover, on July 12th, the Abe government will lift an evacuation order for the bulk of Minamisoma City (designated a “zone in preparation for the lifting of the evacuation order”), which has been in place since the 2011 accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. In accordance with Abe’s plan, on the same day JR East Japan will resume rail services between

Haranomachi Station and Odaka Station, which is about 16km from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, on the JR Joban Line.

Japan’s Ministry of the Environment has raised the level of recyclable conta- minated waste to 8,000Bq/kg, 80 times more than the current norm. It also plans to recycle the waste for use in public works, espe- cially construction for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Even more incredibly, Tokyo Metropolitan Government is planning to build a cross-country course, rowing and canoe-kayak waterway and mountain bike course on a landfill called Central Breakwater Disposal Site, which is the most dangerous hot spot. The site has been a constant dumping ground for highly radioactive waste (8,000Bq/kg to 100,000Bq/kg), such as incinerator bottom ash, incinerated sewage sludge ash and clean water sediment.

The previous governor of Tokyo, Naoki Inose, cooperated with Prime Minister Abe and helped bring the 2020 Olympics to Tokyo, but was then forced to resign over a loan scandal. Inose’s successor, Yoichi Masuzoe, easily won the position with the full support of Abe, but has also now resigned due to yet another financial scandal. The Olympics are intrinsically linked to the interests of only a handful of large capitals and their governments. In order to secure their own survival, they put money first, rather than valuing the lives of ordinary people.

On June 24th, the Abe administration and Shikoku Electric Power Co. trampled on the protesting municipal workers and local residents, and started loading MOX fuel into the No. 3 reactor at Ikata Nuclear Power Plant in Ehime Prefecture. Since April
14th and the Kumamoto Earthquake, tremors have continued to affect wide parts of Kyushu. This indicates that the Median Tectonic Line, the largest belt of faults running from central Honshu to Kyushu, has now finally started to move. In spite of a disaster as large as the Kumamoto Earthquake, the Abe administration and Kyushu Electric Power Co. still refuse to shut down Sendai Nuclear Power Plant, the only nuclear power plant operating in the country. And furthermore, they insist on reopening Ikata Nuclear Power Plant in July, which is located on the Median Tectonic Line.

“We care only about today, regardless of what may happen tomorrow.” This is the reality of Japanese imperialism and the Abe administration, which is desperate to survive in the worldwide economic depression.

  • Crush the Abe administration that is rushing to reopen Japan’s nuclear power plants!
  • Follow the example of Doro-Mito and refuse to work in conditions exposed to radiation!
  • Stop radiation-contaminated soil from being used for constructing Olympics-related facilities!

Download a PDF Of this release.

Atomic Depths: An assessment of freshwater and marine sediment contamination: The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster—Five years later

By Hisayo Takada, Shaun Burnie, Kendra Ulrich, and Jan Vande Putte - Greenpeace, July 2016

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, which began on 11 March 2011, released large amounts of radioactivity into the Pacific Ocean. In fact, as calculated by the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), “this is the largest one-off injection of artificial radionuclides into the marine environment ever observed.”

This report is based on a review of the extensive scientific research that has been conducted since 2011 on radiocesium in seabed sediments in the Pacific Ocean along the Fukushima coast and in river systems and lakes. It also includes the results of Greenpeace radiation surveys conducted in the coastal waters, estuaries, and rivers of Fukushima prefecture in early 2016, as well as in Lake Biwa, Shiga prefecture.

Read the report (PDF).

Doro-Chiba Declaration of Anti-Nuclear Power Plant Fukushima Action On March 11th, 2016

By H Yamamoto - Doro-Chiba, April 16, 2016

The Abe administration is rushing to start war and restart the nuclear power plants. Down with the Abe administration, gathering the Fukushima people’s widespread anger together with the labor unions waging strikes at the forefront of the fight!

The Abe government has decided to lift the evacuation orders in all municipalities in Fukushima that are still exposed to radiation doses of up to 20 mSv/year. This means the evacuees in and outside Fukushima Prefecture are forced to go back into these heavily contaminated areas by March 2017 except for “the difficult-to-return-to areas.”

In line with this, the “compensation for mental suffering” by Tokyo Electric Company (TEPCO) for more than 100,000 evacuees and the government-subsidized apartments for “voluntary evacuees” will be cut off with the intention of forcing these evacuees to return home. This is essentially economic coercion.

The big construction companies make easy money from the wasteful and ineffective “cleanup” operation of the contaminated areas. Contaminated waste is packed into thousands of black bags that have nowhere to go. Radioactive contaminated water increases 500 tons per day as it is used to cool the hundreds of tons of molten fuel, and it will finally be poured into the sea. Even though 167 children in Fukushima have developed thyroid cancer, both the central and prefectural governments repeatedly say that this “has nothing to do with the effects of radiation.” No one can believe such a blatant lie.

The government and TEPCO have never assumed responsibility for the accident, and have been driving wedges against the angry people of Fukushima. Moreover, the government is moving to promote nuclear power plants again as if nothing had happened. We fiercely condemn this shameless covering up of the apparent facts, and are determined to fight resolutely against the restarting of nuclear power plants and export of nuclear power plants.

March 11th marked a starting point for each of us. “Something is wrong with this society”—everyone shared this same feeling and stood up to challenge the political and social situation. It has been five years since that day. Now an aggressive war on the Korean Peninsula is imminent. Furthermore, World War III is actually on the near horizon. There are numerous people who earnestly seek a fundamental change of the society. In South Korea, workers are waging general strikes repeatedly to protest against the drive to war and rampant onslaught of temporary labor.

Let us join together to fight against neoliberalism through international solidarity of the working class! Wage strikes to stop war! Masses of workers have fallen into non-regular jobs and are suffering from extreme poverty. The working class has the power to lead the struggle to change this society.

We have the power to change the history!

By the Organizing Committee of March 11 Anti-NPP Fukushima Action in 2016 - January 1, 2016

Doro-Chiba Union calls for endorsement of and participation in Anti-Nuclear Power Plant Fukushima Action on March 11, 2016:

We have the power to change the history! This is the slogan of the Anti-Nuclear Power Plant Fukushima Action on March 11, 2016.

Against the legislation to exercise the right to collective self-defense more than 100 thousand of people filled the square in front of the Diet day after day. Since this mass uprising last autumn a rising tide of the struggle by millions workers, students and other people, has broadened deeply all over the country and around the world.

The struggle of the fifth anniversary of the Earthquake and nuclear reactor meltdowns on March 11th in Fukushima will be fought headed by the unions which have been waging strikes, with Fukushima people’s widespread anger, calling “down with Abe administration which promotes war bills and wages restarting of nuclear power plants”.

Please endorse and participate in this action from all over the country and around the world.

Declaration of the 44th Annual Convention of Doro-Chiba

By Doro Chiba - Translated into English by Transport Workers Solidarity Committee, September 27, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Doro-Chiba adopted unanimously a new policy of struggle on the 44th Annual Convention today held in the Union Hall. We resolutely confront with the second round offensive of the Division and Privatization by the JR Companies and also advance the fight against the rejection of a final appeal for the Japan Railways' employment discrimination at the time of the Division and Privatization of JNR in 1987.

Doro-Chiba made a final appeal in regard to the above case to the Supreme Court in 2013, but on June 30 of this year, the Court denied the appeal. This reactionary decision of the Supreme Court was an attempt to peremptorily put a period to the National Railway Struggle. Under the explosive situation of railroading the war legislation, the state power was finally forced to make a decision of dismantling militant labor movement at large. However, our consistent struggle has driven the Supreme Court into the corner. The Court was obliged to admit that the JR and the state power itself had committed unfair labor practices in its policy making of discriminating re-employment and dismissal at the time of the Division and Privatization. At last the bedrock of the assault of Division and Privatization of National Railway was shaken! This is a significant victory.

Our thirty year-long struggle has never let the Division and Privatization of JNR slide by as a past issue and prevented the completion of Rengo (system-friendly Japanese Trade Union Confederation) which was established to destroy militant labor movements in 1989.

Our persistent struggle against the Division and Privatization of JNR has defended labor movements and the rights of workers in the nick of time. Now we launch a fresh struggle to have the unfair dismissal withdrawn and laid-off workers reinstated.

We are now drawing up a strike plan to protest against the planned outsourcing toward October 1, the day our members were forced to go on loan to the subcontractor three years ago. We claim; “Cancel immediately our outsourcing contract and reinstate all jobs to JR!” The privatizing and outsourcing issues have not at all been settled yet. An all-out struggle starts from now on.

We denounce Abe administration with fierce anger for railroading the war legislation. However, this historic abominable onslaught has released millions of workers’ anger and let them swing into action, On August 30, more than 120,000 people occupied and liberated the closed area in front of the Diet building, breaking through the police’s cordon. The corrupt knots of Japan Communist Party (JCP) and Rengo became terrified and tried to calm the situation within the framework of co-opted opposition forces. But the protest action grew more and more militant every day and sparked a heavy clash with police power for a week. The history began to change then.

EcoUnionist News #24

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, January 17, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

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For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

Europe's energy transformation in the austerity trap

By Béla Galgóczi - European Trade Union Institute, 2015

Our planetary limits demand a radical transition from the energy-intensive economic model based on the extraction of finite resources, which has been dominant since the first industrial revolution, to a model that is both sustainable and equitable.

Unfortunately however, energy transformation in Europe has, after a promising start, fallen hostage to austerity and to the main philosophy underpinning the crisis management policies in which overall competitiveness is reduced to the much narrower concept of cost-competitiveness. Regulatory uncertainty, design failures built into incentive systems, and unjust distribution of the costs, have also contributed to the reversal of progress in energy transformation currently observable across Europe.

In this book three country case studies highlight the different facets of these conflicts, while additional light is thrown on the situation by an account of the lack of progress in achieving energy efficiency.

By way of conclusion, a mapping of the main conflicts and obstacles to progress will be of help in formulating policy recommendations. Ambitious climate and energy policy targets should be regarded not as a burden on the economy but rather as investment targets able to pave the way to higher employment and sustainable growth. It is high time for this perception to be recognised and implemented in the context of Europe’s new Investment Plan, thereby enabling clean energy investment to come to form its central pillar. A shift in this direction will require an overhaul of the regulatory and incentive systems to ensure that the need for just burden-sharing is adequately taken into account.

Read the report (Link).

Nuclear Workers Kept in Dark on Fukushima Hazard Pay

By Mari Saito and Antoni Slodkowski - HR Reporter, October 8, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

HIRONO (Reuters) — Almost a year after Japan pledged to double hazard pay at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, workers are still in the dark about how much extra they are getting paid, if anything, for cleaning up the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Under pressure to improve working conditions at Fukushima after a series of radioactive water leaks last year, Tokyo Electric Power Co. president Naomi Hirose promised in November to double the hazard pay the utility allocates to its subcontractors for plant workers. That would have increased the amount each worker at the nuclear facility is supposed to earn to about $180 a day in hazard pay.

Only one of the more than three dozen workers interviewed by Reuters from July through September said he received the full hazard pay increase promised by Tepco. Some workers said they got nothing. In cases where payslips detailed a hazard allowance, the amounts ranged from $36 to about $90 a day — at best, half of what Hirose promised.

In some instances, workers said they were told they would be paid a hazard bonus based on how much radiation they absorb – an incentive to take additional risks at a dangerous work site.

One worker interviewed by Reuters said he was told he would get an additional $45 per day every time he was in so-called “hot zones” near Reactors No. 1 and No. 2. Another worker was told he would receive an hourly rate that worked out to $4,500 extra in hazard pay for being exposed to the radiation limit for Japan's nuclear workers over a five-year period. And a third worker said he was told the payout for that same exposure would be $36,000.

Assessing how much Fukushima workers are being paid is complicated by Tepco's insistence that pay is a private matter for its contractors. The power utility, which runs Fukushima and has been nationalised, sits at the top of a contracting pyramid that includes construction giants such as Taisei Corp. Tepco has declined to disclose details of any of its legal agreements with its subcontractors.

The top Tepco official at the plant conceded during a July press tour of the complex that he did not know how much of the increase in hazard pay was being disbursed. "When it comes to the pay rise, I don't have an exact understanding of how much money is getting directly to the workers," said Akira Ono, the Fukushima plant manager.

Tepco said in a statement to Reuters that it instructs subcontractors to ensure workers' pay is included in all contracts and it also asks companies working at the plant to submit documentation for all the subcontractors they use. The power utility said it had recently begun random checks of some of the smaller contractors to determine how much of the hazard pay is reaching workers. A worker who filled in a Tepco survey told Reuters in September that one of the questions was directly related to hazard pay.

Tepco still relies on some 800 mostly small contractors to provide workers for the cleanup after the tsunami that swamped the plant on March 11, 2011, sparked meltdowns at three reactors. Subcontractors provide almost all of the 6,000 workers now employed at the plant. Tokyo Electric employs only about 250 on its own payroll at the facility.

The workforce at Fukushima has almost doubled over the past year, mostly as part of an effort to protect groundwater from being contaminated and to store water that comes in contact with melted fuel in the reactor buildings.

Some of the workers who arrived recently at the plant have been building bunkers to store highly radioactive sludge, which is a byproduct of the process whereby contaminated water is treated. Others are installing equipment to freeze a ring of earth around four reactors at Fukushima to keep water from reaching the melted cores, an unprecedented effort directed by Kajima Corp and expected to cost nearly $300 million.

Kazumitsu Nawata, a professor in the University of Tokyo's department of technology who has researched conditions inside Fukushima, said that if workers do not receive pay that is commensurate with the risks they are taking, they will ultimately look elsewhere for employment. If more experienced workers leave for safer jobs in Tokyo where construction projects are accelerating ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games, it will also increase the likelihood of accidents at the plant, Nawata said in an interview.

"Until now, we have relied heavily on the goodwill of workers. But it's already been three years since the accident. This is no longer sustainable," he said.

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