Carnival Fires 150 Crew Members from India for Protesting Low Cruise Ship Wages

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. 

Arcadia - Cruise Ship Wage - Tips Dispute - Waiters TerminatedToday 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."

Indian Crew Members - Arcadia - Low Wages and No TipsFleet 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  . . . "

U.S. Customs Officials Take Revenge Against Elderly British Cruise Passengers?

A number of newspapers in the U.K. are reporting that 2,000 elderly British cruise ship passengers were forced to endure seven hours of immigration checks when their cruise ship docked at the port of  Los Angeles. 

The U.K.'s Telegraph and the  Mail Online have rather sensationalized accounts of how things went wrong once when passengers aboard the luxury P&O cruise ship Arcadia arrived in LA on May 26th.  Although this was their 10th stop at a U.S. port, and they had all completed forms for multiple-entry visas, the passengers described a nightmare situation where the elderly passengers were subject to detailed passport checks, extensive background interviews, and full Cruise Interrogationbiometric checks, including fingerprints of both hands and retina scans.

When some of the passengers protested the Gestapo-like treatment, passengers complained that the custom and border agents retaliated against them.  The newspaper analogized the mis-treatment to the manner terrorists are treated when they arrival at Guantanamo Bay.   

Then an immigration officials' computer broke down, forcing the weary travelers to wait even longer.

The elderly passengers were 'herded like animals', according to an article in the Telegraph, "causing some to pass out and leaving others confused and bewildered."

The delays forced the P & O cruise ship to extend its stay in LA by 24 hours, and the passengers will miss a planned visit to Roatan, Honduras later this week. 

A U.K luxury cruise turns into a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol "revenge interrogation" of geriatric Brits?  The U.S. war on terror continues.  They are lucky U.S. Homeland Security didn't water-board them . . .  

Today's blog was mentioned in the South Florida Business Review - "The British Are Coming"  and the U.K. Mirror - "Cruise Passengers Face Seven-Hour Ordeal at Hhands of US Immigration."    

Cruise Ship Waiter Commits Suicide

BBC News is reporting that a cruise line waiter hanged himself after being accused of stealing money from the tip box on the cruise ship.

The article indicates that an Indian waiter, Sumith Gawas, from Goa, allegedly killed himself in his cabin on the P&O Cruise ship Arcadia while it was docked in Southampton earlier this summer.  Fellow crew members accused Mr. Gawas of taking the money from a self-service restaurant.

A coroner in Southampton just released an official finding that a suicide occurred. The police had previously ruled out any foul play.

Tips are an important issue for the minimally paid waiters and assistant waiters on cruise ships.  Waiters employed by cruise lines like Royal Caribbean are paid only $50 a month in wages and are dependent on the generosity of the passengers.  Although some waiters can earn several thousand of dollars a month in tips while serving all three meals in the main dining room, working in a buffet or self-service restaurant results in very small passenger tips.