This weekend I read an interesting article in the Springfield Register-Guard about Royal Caribbean Cruises’ plans to add employees at its call center in Oregon.

There are currently over 700 employees at the call center in Oregon, according to the newspaper. The cruise line is planning to add another 220 mostly full time employees.

What struck me about the article was the lucrative pay and benefits which the cruise line provides to its employees. The newspapers says "Royal Caribbean touts its modern facility, which includes a fitness center and cafeteria; base pay that starts at $8.85 to $10.50 an hour, not including incentive pay; Royal Caribbean Call Center Spinngfield Oregonhealth care insurance; a retirement plan; the chance to advance rapidly, and cruising privileges."

The cruise line also received lucrative incentives to open the call center back in 2006. The state of Oregon provided $1.3 million in incentives, including a $600,000 loan. The company was required to pay back only around $64,000. 

What a great employment package for the people in Oregon (especially compared to the Royal Caribbean operations in the U.K. which was out-sourced to Guatemala earlier this year). They can make over $400 working 40 hours a week, plus benefits, in a nice facility doing a cushy job. 

How does that compare to a cleaner from Jamaica who works on a Royal Caribbean ship 10 to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no time off and no benefits?  A cleaner on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship makes around $550 a month performing strenuous work under difficult circumstances, far from the comforts of home. That turns out to around $1.75 an hour. They are tied to contracts lasting anywhere from 6 to 9 months without a single day off.

The cruise line pays no taxes on the billions of dollars paid each year by cruise passenger, because it is incorporated in Liberia and it registers its ship under flags of convenience (Bahamas and Liberia) on its cruise ships. It rakes in millions and millions each year in profits. Its cruise executives, Mr. Fain and Mr. Goldstein, are collectively worth well over $100,000,000 because of the hard working and minimally paid crew, mostly from the Caribbean islands, east Europe, India, Indonesia and the Philippines.

The U.S. executives are swimming in cash while paying the "foreign" crew peanuts. 

There is something wrong when a U.S. call center employee sitting in a cubicle answering the phone for the cruise line can work less than one-half of the hours of a shipboard employee yet earn three times more, plus benefits and perks.   

 

Have a thought?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

Don’t forget to read:  

Cruise Law Visits Royal Caribbean in Oregon

Globalization at Work? Royal Caribbean’s U.K. Call Center Outsourced to Guatemala

The BBC reports that Brazilian police boarded a MSC cruise ship and rescued 11 crew members working in "slave-like conditions." 

Brazilian officials say that the 11 crew members were forced to work up to 16 hours a day on the MSC Magnifica. Some of the crew members were subjected to sexual harassment.

The Brazilian authorities have been investigating the labor abuses for the past month, following a tip-off MSC Magnifica - Slave Shipfrom MSC crew members. 

"The fact that they had signed a contract, even an international contract, does not mean that the basic human rights should not be respected," Labor Ministry director Alexandre Lyra said. 

A publication in Brazil contains additional details of the working conditions. The Blog Do Sakamoto talks of exhaustive work on the MSC cruise ship with stories of abuse, bullying and fraudulent time recording.

"We have no doubt that it is slave labor," said Alexandre Lyra, head of Brazil’s Division of Surveillance for the Eradication of Slave Labor.

You can see two statements of the working conditions written by MSC crew members here.

Another newspaper in Brazil reported that crew members were subjected to racism and homophobic threats and taunts. 

MSC issued a statement denying everything.

In December and March, we posted videos and photos of MSC dumping garbage bags into the sea off the coast of Brazil from the MSC Magnifica.  If the recent allegations are true, it seems that MSC treats its employees worse than the sea it pollutes. 

 

Photo Credit: Reporter Brazil

The cruise lines are at it again.  They are proposing a bill, HR 4005, which will prevent “foreign” cruise ship employees from filing suit in the U.S. for compensation for injuries sustained or bad medical care received on cruise ships.  The proposed legislation includes banning crew members who are injured on cruise ships owned and operated by companies with headquarters here in Miami, like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL.

Who are these workers? They are the state room attendants, waiters, bartenders, and cooks who work 7 days a week for 12 hours a day, all month long. for many months at a time. They live and work on the cruise ships thousands of miles away from home for 6 to 10 months at a time. They are from India, Honduras, Jamaica, Trinidad and Croatia.

Who are these cruise lines? They are multi-billion dollar corporations which are based in the U.S. and whose incomes are derived mostly from U.S. passengers. Over 13 million U.S. citizens take cruises Royal Caribbean Crew Memberevery year. Yet, these companies do not pay U.S. income tax and they do not follow U.S. wage & labor laws or U.S. safety laws.

This proposal discriminates blatantly against crew members around the world. It is also a job killer for the American worker. This bill would guarantee that the cruise lines will never hire U.S. citizens to work onboard their vessels. If non U.S. citizens cannot recover anything in the United States under U.S. law even though the cruise line is negligent, the cruise lines will have a disincentive to hire American workers.

The concept of cutting off a seaman’s right to file suit in the U.S. violates hundreds of years of maritime law.  “Foreign” crew members are the backbone of the cruise industry. This is a xenophobic effort to strike at the heart of the cruise industry by stripping the rights of the heart and soul of the employees who make the cruise ships work. It is unconscionable.  It is also a duplicitous effort, considering that all of the cruise lines are “foreign” corporations, incorporated in countries like Panama (Carnival) or Liberia (Royal Caribbean) and operating cruise ships registered in countries like the Bahamas or Bermuda.

If the cruise lines are not held accountable in U.S. Courts, they will be free to abandon their employees back in countries like India, Jamaica and Honduras when they are injured and need medical care.

There is a risk to the safety and security of cruising if cruise lines are permitted to overwork their crew members, including officers and staff, and not face any economic consequence. An overworked, exhausted and poorly treated crew is a danger to the cruise ship and all aboard.

Cruise CEO’s living here in Miami are making hundreds of millions of dollars over the years by operating businesses based in the U.S. which are “foreign” incorporated and registered. They should not be allowed to discriminate against the “foreign” men and women who sweat all day on cruise ships sailing in and out of U.S. ports and are injured.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line CEO Adam GoldsteinRoyal Caribbean Cruises President and CEO Adam Goldstein sold 44,256 shares of Royal Caribbean stock yesterday.  Zolimax News reports that Mr. Goldstein sold his stock at an average price of $52.96, for a total transaction of $2,343,797.76.

After the sale, Mr. Goldstein’s stocks total 358,804 shares, valued at approximately $19,002,260.

Royal Caribbean (RCL) has a 52-week low of $31.35 and a 52-week high of $53.42. 

We last reported on the cruise president’s stock sales in October of last year when he sold 7,855 shares of RCL stock at an average price of $43.22, for a total value of $339,493.10. At that time, he reportedly owned 335,654 shares of Royal Caribbean stock, valued at approximately $14,506,966. 

It looks like the cruise executive’s net worth has increased by over $7,000,000.

Royal Caribbean pays a salary to its waiters and cabin attendants of only $50 a month; the cruise passengers pay tips to the waiters and stewards but Royal Caribbean is scooping up much of the tips to pay other crew member’s salaries. Employees like utility cleaners earn a pittance of around $550 a month (with no tips) working around 11-12 hours a day, every day of the month during contracts that are 6-8 months long. 

In September of last year, Royal Caribbean fired over one-hundred employees in its corporate offices in order to increase profits. You can read about that here: Loyal to Royal? Royal Caribbean Axes 100 Jobs in Corporate Headquarters.

 

Have a thought?  Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Adam Goldstein – Cruise360 Vimeo

Wayan BarsianaThe Bali Discovery reports on the sad case of a young man who died at sea.

The 21-year-old Balinese man was working as a crew member on the Carnival Splendor and died shortly after joining the cruise ship.

Wayan Barsiana died on December 23, 2013 after joining the cruise ship on December 6, 2013.

The young man’s body was returned to his family in Bali three weeks later on January 13, 2014, after undergoing a post mortem examination. 

The Bali Discovery states that:

"The young man was said to be diligent in calling or texting his family and girlfriend on a daily basis, contact that suddenly stopped on December 21, 2013, when he told his family he had developed a cough. Two days later on December 23, 2104 a manager from Carnival Cruise Lines telephoned the mother to advise her son had died in his crew cabin."

The family reportedly received no further details regarding their son’s death. Wayan Barisana’s body was buried in his home village shortly after it was shipped back to Bali.

The Bali Seafarer’s Centre Facebook page shows photographs of the return of the crew member’s body home.

The KPI union and hiring agency in Indonesia contributed to the funeral expenses in respect for the family.

If you have a comment, please join the discussion about this article on our Facebook page.

Photo credits: Bali Discovery – top; Bali Seafarer’s Centre – bottom. 

Death on Carnival Splendor

Cruise Law News from time to time will feature a comment to our articles by one of our readers.

Comments by crew members are often poignant. The cruise industry’s current state of affairs places tremendous pressure on ship employees from Carnival, Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines. Hours are longer notwithstanding the lofty goals of the MLC 2006, pay is lower, cruise lines are stealing tips intended for the crew, and recently Carnival Cruise Lines terminated the crew’s retirement benefits claiming that the MLC forced it to do so.  

Cruise Ship Working ConditionsHere’s a portion of a comment by a former crew member we received today, expressing some of the angst felt by cruise ship employees:

"You have no idea what is daily "MORAL HARASSMENT"!

During some meetings regarding how afraid the ship’s managers and "the office" were . . . of USPH. The F&B supervisors used to call us "THALIBAN", just because we are from that side of the planet … many times we were called like that.

Most of you have no idea how hard it is to wash 800 plates, clean floors, chemical machines without a single glove in a 14 hours shift . . .

Yes, you may say … we signed for that. No, we signed for what a smiling recruiting agent showed us how life onboard would be like. And we own money to them.

I left Carnival Cruise Lines and continued my studies. I am free now.

P.S. I met all kind of guest too. The wonderful ones and their families are my good friends now. Many crewmenbers too. But the bad stuff … it probably flows from the Miami office to the ships … they don’t care.

So many injustices."

 

Watch Video: Sweatships – Working Conditions on Cruise Ships

Cruise Law News has received inquiries from several Carnival Cruise Lines crew members complaining that the cruise line recently terminated the retirement benefits for crew members.

Like many other cruise lines, Carnival Cruise Lines previously offered a small retirement benefit which crew members were eligible to receive for working a number of years of uninterrupted service to the company. Although the benefits were small, many crew members we spoke to considered the benefits to be an important reason why they worked long hours under difficult circumstances away from their loved ones. Some viewed the benefits as a means to make payments toward a house when they retire.

However, the crew members recently received a short memo from the cruise line telling them that their retirement benefits were suspended. Many of the crew members who contacted us felt betrayed that Carnival had promised them retirement benefits which they relied upon to continue working with the cruise line.

It is well known that Carnival Cruise Lines is under severe financial constraints following the Triumph "Poop Cruise" fiasco including other other engine room fires (such as the Splendor) and propulsion failures. And cruise fares are historically low following the public relations fall-out.   

Carnival Cruises Lines Retirement BenefitsThe question remains whether the termination of benefits applies to all crew members at Carnival Cruise Lines of all nationalities. As best as we can tell, it does not apply to the other Carnival Corporation brands, such as HAL, Princess Cruises, or other companies.    

We reached out to Carnival Cruise line for an explanation regarding the end of the retirement benefit program. Here were some of our questions:  

Does this apply to all Carnival Cruise Line crew/staff/officer positions?

Does this apply to all nationalities?

How many crew members are affected? What is the anticipated savings to the company?

How does the termination of benefits work? For example, if a Carnival ship employee worked 14 & ½ years, he or she will not be entitled to the 15-year retirement benefits upon reaching 15 years of service. Is this correct? Will that employee be entitled to the retirement benefits associated with 10 years because he or she have already worked over 10 years?

Below is the response from the cruise line late this afternoon. 

The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC 2006), which came into effect on August 20, 2013, embodies up-to-date standards of international maritime labor laws and recommendations. As of August 20, 2013, MLC 2006 was ratified by 50 countries representing 75% of global shipping. The enactment of MLC 2006 resulted in several changes to our benefits and compensation plans for shipboard employees. One such example is that we will begin paying contributions to government mandated social security programs for applicable seafarers instead of providing a company-run retirement plan. As a result of MLC 2006, Carnival Cruise Lines’ total financial investment in benefits and compensation for shipboard employees has increased significantly.

Carnival does not explain which crew member nationalities are subject to "government mandated social programs." If the crew member is not part of such a governmental program, then it appears that the crew member is left without a retirement benefit of any type from this point forward.

Also the question arises whether the crew members themselves will have the amounts paid to the governmental programs deducted from their pay. 

Is the ending of the retirement benefits program really tied to the MLC as Carnival claims? Or is this an excuse and diversion to the fact that Carnival is simply slashing benefits of its ship employees to add to the company’s profitability? 

If you are a crew member with Carnival Cruise Line and just had your retirements benefits terminated, please tell us what you think about the situation. Please leave a comment below.

Do you have to make payments for the social programs of your home countries? Do you know what, if anything, the government social programs provide to you for retirements benefits?

Please feel free to leave an anonymous comment or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

October 24 2013 Update: Here’s what Carnival’s website says about "The Fun Ship Retirement Plan:"

"To acknowledge and reward Team Carnival’s significant contributions to The Company’s success, and to help team members plan and save for retirement, Carnival has developed ‘The Fun Ship Retirement Plan.’

This plan provides a lump-sum benefit upon team members’ retirement from Carnival, provided they have at least 10 years of continuous service.

A prorated lump-sum benefit will be paid based on the individual’s position within the company. The amount of the lump sum payment will be based on the last position held for the previous five years prior to the retirement date.

The longer a team member is employed beyond the initial 10-year period, the faster the benefits increase. Simply put, the longer you stay with Carnival, the larger your benefit payment will be upon your retirement."

Cruise ShipLast week I wrote a short article about the difficult working condition on the Royal Princess: Extreme Work Load & Grueling Hours Exhaust Royal Princess Crew Members. It was a short article but it struck a nerve with crew members. Over 950 readers have liked, shared or tweeted the article so far.

Today we received an interesting comment to the article:

"I worked for Princess for 7 years and the worst part for me is the blatant discrimination against certain ethnic groups. Few people know that crew from countries like Philippines, India, Mexico receive significantly lower wages for doing exactly the same job and working exactly the same hours as crew from European countries.

My roommate was from the Philippines and we were both photographers on the same level with same job description. My salary was $2000 a month and his was $1200.

The company’s defense: The cost of living is cheaper in their countries! This is so unfair in every way, even though things might be cheaper in their countries, they are still away from their countries for 8 months at a time where they have to pay the same normal western prices as us . . ." 

Have you faced discrimination while working on cruise ships operated by Carnival, Holland America Line, Princess, or Royal Caribbean?

Please leave a comment below below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Royal Princess Cruise ShipA number of crew members have contacted us about the difficult work and long hours the crew are required to work aboard the Royal Princess cruise ship.

We are informed that 12 dishwashers signed off the Princess cruise ship in just the last 2 months because of what is being described as a heavy work load and extreme work hours, reportedly more than 14 hours work everyday.  Other crew members may be leaving as well before the cruise ship embarks on its transatlantic crossing to South Florida.

One of the problems which crew members face when a cruise ship repositions from Europe to the U.S. is that they have to work additional hours to prepare for inspections by the United States Public Health (USPH) inspectors. A failed USPH inspection is a kiss of death for a Food & Beverage supervisor or the senior managers of restaurant and galley operations. 

I’m sure that the guests aboard the newest Princess luxury cruise ship have no idea how hard and how long the crew members from Indonesian, Indian, and the Philippines work.

Leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

"Freestyle cruising." Carefree and fun? Maybe for the NCL cruise passengers. But hardly for the crew.

After reading this decision, I’ll never think of "Freestyle cruising" as anything less than an abusive work system for the stewards on NCL cruise ships.  

The case I am referring to is the opinion released yesterday by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal: Wallace et al. v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd., Docket No. 1:09-CV-21814-FAM.

The case involves senior cabin stewards who worked aboard NCL cruise ships. They filed suit under the Seaman’s Wage Act, 46 U.S.C. 10313, alleging that NCL did not pay them their full wages because their compensation did not take into account the money they were required to pay their helpers to NCL Freestyle Cruisingcomplete their work on embarkation days.

The federal district court found that additional wages were owed, but refused to award "penalty wages" under the Act. "Penalty wages" are owed in the amount of 2 days’ wages for each day payment is delayed. Once the delay or non-payment is proved by the seafarer, then the burden shifts to the cruise line to prove that the delay or non-payment was justified. On appeal, the federal appellate court affirmed the decision and concluded that there was no evidence of willful or arbitrary misconduct by NCL.

The appellate court’s opinion, which is here, is worth reading.

In a nutshell, the appellate court affirmed the district court’s conclusion that NCL didn’t realize that a single senior cabin steward would be unable to clean 30 to 35 cabin and change and make 70 to 75 cabins in a few hours. It’s hard to understand how a court could be so naive. Of course, cabin attendants need assistance in doing all of this work in just around 4 hours.  Although the courts rejected the penalty wage claims, it’s still interesting to read the opinion to consider the difficulty and pressure of the work by stewards on NCL ships:     

"A passenger’s time spent on a cruise ship is typically very relaxing, at least until it is time to disembark. In this case, the defendant-appellee NCL (Bahamas) Ltd., (“NCL”) decided to make that last day of the voyage less stressful for its customers. To accomplish this goal, NCL implemented a new policy, called “Freestyle” cruising, which permits passengers to stay aboard for a longer time after the ship has docked on the last day of their voyage. Passengers, who would normally disembark very early, are allowed to stay on board until as late as 10:30 a.m. That is the good news.

The bad news, at least for the NCL employees who worked as senior stateroom stewards aboard the cruise ships, is that on that same day, while one group of passengers is leisurely disembarking, another group of passengers is eager to board and begin their cruise ship experience. Due to the arrival of these new passengers, NCL required the senior stateroom stewards to have all of the cabins cleaned by 2:00 p.m. This made it much more difficult for the senior stewards to timely complete their work. That is, although they began their work shifts at 7:00 a.m., for the most part, they were unable to begin cleaning the cabins until as late as 10:30 a.m. because the departing group of passengers was still enjoying their Freestyle cruise. This in turn allowed scant time to complete the assigned cleaning work by 2:00 p.m. In light of the substantial workload and the shortened time frame within which to complete it, most of the senior stewards adopted the practice of hiring helpers (out of their own pocket) to assist them in completing their work on embarkation day.

                                                       *                       *                     *

On embarkation day (the day a cruise ends, passengers disembark, and new passengers board), senior stewards had to clean between 30 and 35 cabins (although there was some dispute over how many beds 30 to 35 cabins contained, senior stewards had to strip and make at least 70 beds) before new passengers arrived. On these days, their responsibilities included: (1) stripping the beds of linens and sheets; (2) separating the linens and sheets; (3) making the beds; (4) dusting the cabins; (5) sanitizing the cabin’s handrails, door handles, closet doors, frequently touched areas, and telephones; (6) cleaning any used coffee pots and ice buckets; (7) separating the garbage into bottles, cans, paper, and plastic; (8) taking garbage to the incinerator; and (9) vacuuming the cabin and hallways. NCL had rigorous standards that required “immaculate” cabins and a quality control system to randomly check for cleanliness.

In 2000, NCL implemented its Freestyle cruising policy, which permitted passengers to stay on board later on embarkation day. This policy was designed to maximize relaxation for passengers. Prior to this time, NCL required passengers to disembark by 8:00 or 8:30 a.m. With Freestyle cruising, passengers could stay as long (or almost as long) as they wished. The senior stewards technically started their work at 7:00 a.m. on embarkation day, but under the Freestyle cruise system, passengers would leave their cabins much later. Indeed, few passengers would leave before 8:30 a.m., and most passengers did not disembark until 9:30 or 10:30 a.m. Because new passengers would venture to their rooms soon after boarding, NCL required that all cabins be cleaned by 2:00 p.m. This caused problems for NCL senior stewards on embarkation day. One NCL supervisor noted that with the Freestyle “concept we also advertise relax[ing] debark[ation] which puts another stress” on embarkation day.

Although junior stewards worked alongside the senior stewards, they offered little or no help, and in fact had their own separate work responsibilities. The senior stewards therefore had to complete a substantial workload in a shortened timeframe. And, if they failed to finish their assignments or rushed their work, they faced a quality control process that could lead to verbal and written reprimands. Thus, the senior stewards had to hire helpers to complete their duties on embarkation day."