The Manila Bulletin reports that Royal Caribbean announced yesterday that it is "hiring a total of 30,000 Filipino crew members over the next five years" as the company "expands its fleet and routes to Asia."
The newspaper also states that the cruise line currently employees around 11,000 Filipinos as crew members.
Filipinos seafarers have a proud tradition of working at sea. Unfortunately, Filipinos have perhaps the fewest legal rights of any crew member working for a cruise line. That’s because the cruise industry is enforcing arbitration which requires them to pursue their claims in Manila pursuant to the Philippines Overseas Employment Agreement (POEA) which places a cap on their damages when they are injured during their work.
The compensation is ridiculously low. For example, a Filipino crew member employed on a bulk carrier as a senior engine fitter received sustained serious burns of his abdomen and legs when scalding water overflowed a tank. The crew member underwent extensive and painful medical treatment in the burn units of West Jefferson Medical Center and Baton Rouge General Medical Center in Louisiana, U.S.A.
The Filipino underwent skin grafting burns of 35% of his body.
He thereafter was returned to the Philippines where he continued undergoing medical treatment at a number of hospitals and with a number of doctors who performed plastic surgery. He is now unemployed, disabled and scarred for life.
He filed suit in state court in Jefferson Parish where the accident occurred, but his case was dismissed and he was ordered to proceed with arbitration in the Philippines.
The shipping company argued that the case was controlled totally by Philippine law and the crew member had no rights whatsoever under U.S. law. The company argued that under the Philippines Overseas Employment agreement (POEA), the crew member suffered a grade 14 disability which would entitle him to only 3.74% of USD $50,000 or a total award of $1,870.00 (US).
The Filipino Labor Board agreed and awarded the crew member just $1,870. You can read about the case here.
When Filipinos are killed at seas due to the negligence of the cruise line, the POEA has a cap of only $50,000.
If Royal Caribbean hires some 30,000 Filipinos over the years, it will save many millions of dollars by sending them back to Manila when they are injured and forcing them to accept the limited compensation under the POEA.
Photo Credit: By Maxime Felder – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia