In May we reported on exploitative labor practices by Carnival subsidiary P&O Cruises.
In Profits Over People: Carnival's Exploitation of Crew Members is Standard Industry Practice, we explained how P&O decided to pay its crewmembers a basic salary of 75 pence an hour (approximately $1.20 an hour / $400 a month). The company phased out cash-tips-directly-to-the-crew and replaced the tips with "automatic gratuities" billed to the passengers' accounts. But rather than forward the gratuities to the crew, the cruise line threatened to withhold the money if it is not satisfied with a crewmember's work performances.
Today the Guardian newspaper in London published an article which brings us to date regarding the pay dispute. In P&O Cruise Ship Arcadia Hits Troubled Waters Over Ousting of Indian Crew, reporter Gwyn Topham reports that 150 waiters from India decided to make a little protest over the low wages and withholding of tips.
While the Arcadia was in port in Seattle a month ago, for about 90 minutes the waiters engaged in a "good-humoured" demonstration dockside about the low wages. The cruise ship's British captain communicated with the cruise lines' head office in Southampton and relayed the crew's concerns. The waiters returned to the ship, worked late into the night, and were assured there would be no reprisals by management.
But as the Guardian explains, P&O's parent company, Carnival, did not find any humor in the situation: "This protest could not, directors decided, be tolerated – no matter what assurances the captain had given the crew."
Carnival sent letters to the restaurant staff who participated in the 90 minutes protest, admonishing them for their "industrial action" and stating "this behaviour is not something Carnival UK is prepared to tolerate." Not only did Carnival prohibit them from returning to work on the Arcadia but banished them from working on any Carnival cruise ship world-wide.
In addition, Carnival instructed the hiring agency, Fleet Maritime Service International, which is registered in Bermuda to avoid taxes and labor regulations, to prohibit the waiters from ever working for Fleet Marine as well. The Guardian explains that "the Fleet payroll office is in the tax haven of Guernsey. Yet the letter is signed by an Edward Jones, the chief financial officer of Carnival UK."
Fleet Maritime is the largest employer of cruise ship personnel in India, and Carnival runs half of the world cruise market. So Carnival essentially "black balled" 150 cruise waiters from one-half of the world's cruise ships.
Indian cruise ship employees, like virtually all crew members, are not members of a union and work entirely at the mercy of the cruise company. Carnival has an eye out for any type of collective protests by the crew. This is union-busting circa early 1900's. As this case illustrates, Carnival will not hesitate to retaliate against their employees for speaking out about unfair labor practices. According to the cruise executives, If Carnival doesn't punish these upstarts, other crew members may protest too.
Lots of Indian men and women go to sea believing that if they work hard on cruise ships, they can make a good living for their family back home. But the truth is something less than those dreams. It's really long hours, hard work, low pay and no benefits. The newspaper quotes a spokesperson for a British seafarer's union: "It's a shabby, unacceptable practice to exploit cheap foreign labour . . . "