- Working on a cruise ship may sound like a good opportunity for those wanting to travel, but two lawyers who represent cruise-line workers and passengers told Business Insider that the reality is often a lot less glamorous.
- The hours are long, the pay is low, and initial medical care for injuries can be inadequate.
- Cruise lines can get away with treating their lowest-paid workers poorly because they recruit them from countries with limited economic opportunities, the lawyers said.
- Do you work in the cruise industry? Do you have an opinion on how your company or the industry as a whole has handled the coronavirus? Email this reporter at [email protected].
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Working on a cruise ship may sound like a fun opportunity for those who like to travel, but the reality of many cruise-ship jobs is far less glamorous, two lawyers who represent cruise-line workers and passengers told Business Insider in 2018.
Often signed to six or eight-month contracts, cruise ship employees can work seven days a week for a minimum of 12 hours per day, Jim Walker, a maritime lawyer for Walker and O’Neill, said. All of that can occur while making anywhere from from around $US550 to $US2,000 per month, Walker added.
“They’re overworked and they’re underpaid,” he said.
Walker said those who have the most physically demanding jobs, like waiters and cleaners, also tend to receive inadequate medical care when they first report an injury.
Often, they will be given pain medication and sent back to work, even if their injury requires more serious attention. And some employees are fearful of even reporting pain or complaining about their working conditions in any way, Walker said, as doing so can lower their odds of receiving a new contract.
Cruise lines can get away with treating their lowest-paid workers poorly because they recruit them from countries with limited economic opportunities, Michael Winkleman, a maritime lawyer for Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, told Business Insider.
For cruise-ship employees, he said, “the story is always the same.”
“In their home country, they can maybe make a few hundred dollars a month,” Winkleman said. “Whereas, for a lot of the jobs on the ship, they can make a few thousand dollars a month.
“So the opportunity to make good money for themself and for their family is tremendous. Thus, they’re willing to suffer through difficult labour conditions and being mistreated.”
The Caribbean, the Philippines, and Eastern Europe are major sources of cruise-ship employees, and only about 5% of cruise-ship employees are American citizens or residents, Walker said. Americans don’t take the worst jobs, and tend to work instead as ship directors or entertainers, he added.
And when cruise-ship workers are mistreated, they have few options, both Walker and Winkleman said.
Cruise lines often use a practice known as “flying a flag of convenience,” which involves registering their businesses and ships in countries – like the Bahamas, Panama, and Bermuda – with relatively lax labour laws. Cruise lines also often include clauses in employee contracts that require them to use arbitration to resolve conflicts, restricting their employees’ ability to sue them.
Arbitration can produce favourable outcomes for an employer, since in some cases it can hire the arbitrator, which may create pressure for the arbitrator to give the employer a more favourable ruling to increase the odds of receiving future business.
Combined, those factors make cruise ships difficult places to work for many employees.
“I would call it ‘purgatory at sea,'” Winkleman said.
Do you work in the cruise industry? Do you have an opinion on how your company or the industry as a whole has handled the coronavirus? Email this reporter at [email protected].
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- The coronavirus is the worst thing to happen to the cruise industry since a passenger was shot and thrown off of a ship in the 1980s, a cruise expert says
- Carnival Corporation CEO tells employees in a leaked video that there are no mass cuts coming as industry reels from coronavirus pandemic: ‘We’ll be in a position to survive this’ even as operations stop
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