Loyal to Royal? Royal Caribbean Axes 100 Jobs in Corporate Headquarters

The rumors of job terminations at Royal Caribbean ended yesterday when multiple news sources announced that the Miami-based cruise lines cut around 100 employees from its payroll.

Seatrade Insider was the first publication I read yesterday about the large scale termination at the cruise line's headquarters. Its article entitled Royal Caribbean Global EVP Bauer is Leaving, 100 Other Positions are Eliminated showed a photo of  a rather somber Ms. Bauer looking tense with her hands clinched. Although the photo was probably a stock photo, the photo to me captured the anxiety and grim nature of mass lay-offs.      

Ms. Bauer has been a popular executive for Royal Caribbean and has been one the regulars photographed Lisa Bauer Royal Caribbeanwhenever a new cruise ship comes on line or a new terminal is opened. She has worked for Royal Caribbean for the past 11 years involved in sales, marketing, hotel operations and product development.

The photograph to the right shows Ms. Bauer in happier days when she was discussing the unveiling of the Oasis of the Sea. She is shown with the Royal Caribbean fraternity brothers Chairman Richard Fain, President Adam Goldstein and Captain William Wright.     

The Miami Herald published a story on the cruise employees lay-offs as well as Travel Weekly which ran the title Royal Caribbean Cuts 100 Jobs, Including Bauer's.

In addition to Ms. Bauer, some 100 other level positions were eliminated.

A couple of years ago, Royal Caribbean initiated a similar purge of 400 employees when the vice president of risk management, the head of crew claims, the head of passenger claims and a senior representative in corporate communications were all fired. Like Ms. Bauer, these four senior employees were all women.

The other major mass termination occurred in 2001 when the cruise line eliminated 500 jobs.

I'd like to know how many of the 100 Royal Caribbean employees terminated yesterday were women? Anyone know?   

The Seatrade Insider called the most recent mass firings a "drive for greater corporate efficiency."  

Hogwash. That's gobbledygook. The reality is fewer people will now do more work to keep money in the Chairman's and President's pockets.

In June, we published a spot-on article about Royal Caribbean cutting the senior officers in its marine operations department while increasing the work and reducing the pay of those officers which survived the cuts. You can read that article here: Cruise Lines Increase Responsibilities & Hours of Officers But Decrease Pay.  

These actions call into question whether "Loyal to Royal" is just a publicity slogan. 

The 6 A.M. Knock

Like any employee, crew members are not immune from being terminated. But termination on a cruise ship is a bit different from being fired at a regular job. It's like being fired and kicked out of your apartment all at once.

Better known as the "6 AM knock," crew members wake up to the ship’s security officers, banging at their cabin door, and delivering the news that the crew member must leave the vessel immediately.

Within about an hour, the terminated crew member must gather all of his or her personal belongings, hand in the ship cards, pay-off any shipboard debts, and walk off the gangway.  In most cases the crew Crew Member Rights - Cruise Shipsmember is are not given any explanation as to why she is being instructed to leave. A meeting is not set up with their superiors or the captain discussing the grounds for termination. Worst of all, the fired crew member doesn’t even know what legal rights she has in this kind of situation (that’s assuming there are any rights at all).

Typically once a crew member “rocks the boat," the cruise line finds a way to dispose of the problem immediately. All it really takes is aggravating the right people or protesting unfair treatment. Alcohol and drug tests are a good tool cruise lines use to make a case to fire a crew member. Most cruise lines have an alcohol and drug policy that allows them to conduct random tests. Security knocks on the crew member’s door, and hands the employee a little plastic bottle for urine testing.  

This is all done while the security officers wait outside the bathroom located in the crew member’s cabin. If this isn’t invasive enough, the bathroom door must remain open just a crack to ensure that the crew member doesn’t taint the sample. Can you feel the trust?

Interestingly, the results of these tests are never given to the crew member. It is not even clear where the sample goes once handed to the security officers. It is important to point out that I am writing from personal experience here. I have also spoken to several other crew members who were terminated and their stories are pretty much on par with my experience.

On any given night a hundred crew members could fail such a test, but the tests are often reserved for those who are vocal in criticizing procedures or who complain about sexual harassment or unlawful conduct.

What happens once the crew member walks off the gangway? Cruise lines tend to terminate a crew Crew Gangway - Cruise Shipsmember when the ship is docked in a non-U.S. port. Although the flight is arranged and paid for by the cruise line, the crew member is rushed off the ship and sometimes has to board the flight in less than 2 hours. Once the crew member is off the gangway, they are no longer the cruise line’s responsibility. If the crew member misses her flight, she has to pay out-of-pocket for a new ticket. 

Employment on cruise ships is considered "at will" employment, meaning at the will of the employer. There is a saying in the cruise industry that a crew member can be terminated for good cause, bad cause or no cause. Maritime legal rights are virtually non-existent when the crew member is terminated.

Cruise lines don’t like problems. They don’t want crew members who will “make waves.” As soon as a crew member is labeled as a “problem,” they can expect a knock on the door around 6:00 AM.    

 

Cruise Law Miami FloridaThis blog was written by Danielle Gauer who worked as a dancer for several years on cruise ships prior to embarking on her university studies. She is currently completing her Juris Doctor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law and will be sitting for the Ontario, Canada Bar admission examinations this June. 

Prior to law school, Danielle (middle, with Jonathan Aronson left, and Jim Walker right) was the recipient of the Ryerson University Gold Medal and H.H. Kerr Memorial Scholarship for high academic standing.

You can read Danielle's prior guest blogs below:

So You Want to Dance on the High Seas?

Life Below Deck 4: What Passengers Don't Know & the Cruise Lines Won't Tell Them

Cruising, "Eh!" to Z! What Canadians Should Know Before Getting On-Board . . .