A dozen newspapers in the U.K. have reported on P&O Cruises' decision to pay its crewmembers a basic salary of 75 pence an hour (around $1.20 an hour) which turns out to be approximately $400 a month. Cash tips are being phased out with automatic gratuities being added to the passengers' bills. But rather than forwarding the passengers tips to the crew, the cruise line has threatened to withhold tips if the crewmember's rating falls below 92 percent.
In grade school, a 92 is an "A-." So if a waiter who works a minimum of 11-12 hours a day (330-360 hours a month) receives a 91 (a "B+"?), management will pocket the tips?
The Guardian newspaper reports that P&O Cruises justifies the move claiming that it is actually "good" for the crewmembers because many tourists don't tip. It quotes David Dingle, CEO of Carnival UK, in charge of P&O cruise lines, saying that the crew were allegedly "much happier" and P&O's pay scale is "standard for the industry."
Some passengers reported that many of the crewmembers on a P&O cruise ship, mostly Indians, were at the point of tears upon hearing the news.
Carnival U.K. CEO Dingle tells the Guardian that "we have a manning office in Mumbai. There are queues out on to the street." Ah, the desperate lining up, praying that Mr. Dingle will bestow them with the opportunity to work 350 hours a month for $400.
This no reason to exploit people. But it is a revealing insight into why Carnival and P&O exploit their employees. They can and therefore they will.
The U.N. reports that over 410,000,000 people from India are living below the poverty level.
Dingle is also right about low pay being what he calls "standard for the industry."
Carnival and Royal Caribbean in the U.S. pay cleaners from Jamaica as little as $545 a month. They expect them to grind out 12 hours days for 6 to 8 months straight. For a 31-day-month, that's 372 hours for $545, less than $1.50 an hour. And when the crewmembers' bodies break, the cruise lines dump them back home without medical care and treatment.
Corporate Watch has an interesting article which characterizes the low P&O pay as shameful. Fares for the Carnival Legend range between $2,798 and $6,458 per passenger for a 12 day cruise around northern Europe. Yet, P&O workers would need to work for 500 days straight to pay for a cruise themselves, assuming that they did not spend a single penny of their wages.
Carnival Corporation has annual revenues of $15.8 billion in 2011 and profits of $2.2 billion. Micky Arison is Florida's richest person with a net worth of many billions. But Arison is no Gandhi. You will find him counting his billions on his 200' super-yacht or on the front row of the AA arena in Miami watching his hundred million dollar super-star basketball players. Trust me, he's not worried about Indian waiters getting their tips.
I can't imagine working 350 hours a month for $400, hoping that the guests I slaved away for would reward me a score higher than a 92. An "A" or no tip? You would think that a company earning billions a year (tax free to boot) wouldn't jack up a crew member for $150 in tips. But there is no satisfying this type of corporate greed.
But who cares? There are many young Indian men in line at the hiring agency in Mumbai hoping to be the next one to be hired to work aboard a P&O cruise ship.