Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) rejected some 20 proposals made by the Nuclear Damage Compensation Dispute Resolution Center (ADR) to settle disputes with TEPCO employees and their families over compensation for damages stemming from the 2011 outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant, it has been learned.
TEPCO, the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power complex, turned down six such proposals during a one-month period through March 26. All of the proposals were made at the request of TEPCO employees and their families, and there were two cases in March alone that were brought to court. Other TEPCO employees are also considering filing lawsuits against the utility. The unusual situation in Japan in which employees and their company confront each other is becoming increasingly serious.
According to people concerned, there were 21 cases as of March 26 in which procedures for ADR-brokered settlements broke down because TEPCO refused to reach out-of-court settlements. TEPCO rejected all of the compromise proposals made by the ADR to order the utility to pay compensation to TEPCO employees or their families. There were 15 cases that had been handled by the ADR for about two and a half years between August 2011 when the ADR was established and Feb. 25, 2014. That means, however, that TEPCO rejected six sets of compromise proposals during only one month thereafter.
A 45-year-old male employee filed a lawsuit with the Fukushima District Court on March 4 and a 23-year-old male employee filed a suit with the Tokyo District Court on March 10. The man who filed the suit with the Fukushima District Court was living alone in an apartment in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Okuma near the troubled nuclear power station when the nuclear accident occurred. He is currently living in Fukushima city, and he filed the lawsuit demanding the utility pay about 7 million yen in damages including psychological distress. His lawyer Mitsugu Araki said, “There is no rational reason why only TEPCO employees should not be granted compensation.”
The man who filed the suit with the Tokyo District Court is a young TEPCO employee who joined the utility four years ago. In the wake of the outbreak of the nuclear crisis, he slept in his car after evacuating from a company residence in Okuma near the crippled nuclear plant. He then moved to a corporate dormitory at the “J-Village” facility in Hirono and Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, in August 2011.
The man lived in a three-tatami-mat private room while trying not to make any noise. Thus, he had a series of sleepless nights. In October 2011, he lied down in the room but could not get to sleep. He later found out that he had taken one month’s worth of sleep-inducing tablets by the following morning. Doctors diagnosed him with an adjustment disorder. He could not adapt to the environment and started to suffer from depression and insomnia. In the ADR-mediated procedures, TEPCO insisted, “His evacuation finished when he moved to Iwaki city.” Because of all this, the man moved ahead to file the lawsuit demanding TEPCO pay about 18 million yen in damages.
The man says that many young TEPCO employees have been leaving the company because of the utility’s discriminatory handling of its employees. His friend who joined the utility the same year left the company, saying, “I can’t work at a company that does not see a person as a human.” The man asked himself, “Should I seek compensation even by suing the company?” After agonizing over the issue, he decided to file the lawsuit against TEPCO, saying, “For the sake of other employees who cannot raise their voices, I want the company to acknowledge its responsibility.” His lawyer Motomitsu Nakagawa said, “TEPCO and the state should think about the fact that there are many employees in the background who cannot raise their voices.”
According to other lawyers, there are at least two people who are preparing to file lawsuits against TEPCO. Although the situation represents a confrontation between labor and management, there are no signs that the Tokyo Electric Power Worker’s Union will take any action. The union told the Mainichi Shimbun, “Because compensation is an issue to be handled by individuals, the union has no plans to negotiate with the company.”