Demand Just Treatment for Workers Stranded on Coronavirus-Stricken Cruise Ships

Carnival Corporation & PLC, Royal Carribean Cruises, Norwegian Cruiseline Holdings, Genting Hong Kong Cruises, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

We Demand Just Treatment for Workers Stranded on Coronavirus-Stricken Cruise Ships

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the plight of seafarers, and particularly of cruise ship workers, to the attention of the public. However, the cruise ship industry has a history of worker exploitation (1) (2), unwilling to provide the seafarers who are its backbone basic human rights both during and outside of this COVID-19 Pandemic. This is an industry notorious for subjecting workers to egregiously long hours and low pay, and using flags of convenience to exploit workers by avoiding unions, taxes, and environmental laws. COVID-19 has heightened these long-existing inequalities among seafarers, most of whom are foreign nationals from Asia.

Laws around seafarers, and their application, have created spaces in the global economy where migrant workers are institutionally subject to particular, often subordinating, conditions. Even the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure recently acknowledged that “Long before the COVID-19 pandemic began to race around the world, affecting local communities, churches, cities, homes, hospitals, and cruise ships sailing at sea, the cruise industry had a problem managing, containing, and responding to public health outbreaks.” This committee opened an investigation of Carnival Corporation, alleging that “officials at Carnival were aware of the threats to some of its ships and did not take appropriate actions, which may have led to greater infections and the spread of the disease,” based on reporting from Bloomberg Businessweek.

Carnival Corporation & PLC, whose 2018 net revenues totaled around $4.229 billion and who represents the majority market share of major cruise lines, is failing to treat its workers with the dignity they deserve. According to the notice from the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, “Even a senior CDC official who leads the CDC’s cruise ship task force was quoted as saying she had a hard time believing that Carnival was simply “a victim of happenstance.”

Major cruise lines have thus far resisted all calls for transparency regarding any measures it has supposedly taken to guarantee crew members’ safety, and, because of this lack of transparency, we cannot be sure that workers are safe from harm amidst the current pandemic. It’s clear that major cruise lines such as Carnival are far more concerned with their own operations and profits than the safety and well-being of their workers, that they are “still trying to sell this cruise line fantasy and ignoring the public health threat posed by coronavirus to potential future passengers and crew.”

Therefore, we demand that major cruise lines take all necessary measures to preserve the health, safety, and well-being of their crew members in light of the COVID-19 infection on hundreds of cruise ships currently stranded in ports across the world, and that these cruise lines be fully transparent with regards to their management of the outbreak and labor violations of their vulnerable worker populations, which has so far led to multiple positive tests for COVID 19 (primarily in workers) and multiple fatalities.

When our most vulnerable populations go unprotected, we are all at risk.

Workers continue to face a high risk of exposure and infection until they are disembarked and provided testing, medical care, and safe quarantine. Help amplify the voices of these workers who are demanding COVID-19 testing & treatment, repatriation to their home countries, compensation for lost wages, and transparency from major cruise lines by signing this petition and sharing it with your networks.

We demand that these major cruise lines take the necessary immediate action to preserve the health, safety, and well-being of its workers on all of its ships, including:

  1. Disembarking, testing, and humanely treating all workers. All workers must be tested, and not just screened for symptoms; and that testing must be paid for by the cruise line. Those who test positive must be given proper treatment and documentation of the treatment, and those who test negative must be provided the documentation proving negative test status and be allowed to go ashore if tested negative and not be imprisoned on the ship. Those testing negative have the right to go ashore with their documentation just as before the pandemic.

  2. Providing all workers with comprehensive medical and mental health services. Workers should be provided access to a social worker and full psychiatric and medical evaluations and treatment to address their mental and physical health concerns upon disembarking, especially after being quarantined on a contaminated ship with limited to no contact with their families, their union representation, and the outside world throughout this traumatic experience.

  3. Providing safe housing accommodations. Disturbingly, in the case of Grand Princess, the San Francisco Port Commission indicated that workers may have been forced to stay on the ship. We believe that all workers (non-essential and essential) should be removed from the ships, per WHO guidelines, and provided temporary housing in a local hotel, paid for by the cruise lines, throughout the duration of their basic quarantine and their process of returning to their home countries, until they reach their own homes safely and completely healthy.  

  4. Compensating workers for lost wages for their full contracted term, ensuring financial and job security. Seafarers' families are dependent on allotments from their wages for their loved ones. Some companies have stopped their wages calling them “guest workers” when in fact they are trapped on the ship and unable to provide for their families. The shipowners must continue to pay their wages through the pandemic or until they are properly repatriated. According to their CBA, seafarers are entitled to additional compensation specified in the event of an unexpected termination of their voyage or contract. Cruise lines need to honor all their commitments to its workers whose contracted work will be terminated prematurely by this public health crisis. Beyond that, these cruise lines should provide hazard pay for work conducted while on board infected ships, and any and all additional compensation needed to restore the workers’ being “fit to work.” Finally, the cruise lines should not discriminate in the rehiring and recontracting of these workers when the industry restores its cruise operations.

  5. Covering all costs attendant to repatriating workers to their countries of origin. After providing testing and humane treatment, these cruise lines must work with the workers’ home countries to repatriate the workers, and cover the cost, as expeditiously as possible.

  6. Decommissioning all ships and having them professionally disinfected. Considering that dozens of cruise ships have had positive cases of coronavirus, the cruise lines should take the most health-protective approach and pay to have these ships disinfected by professionals, not by their own exploited workers, with proper protection and equipment in accordance with WHO guidelines.

  7. Transparency on its management of the COVID-19 outbreak. Specifically these major cruise lines must:

    1. Publicly and regularly divulge their processes around testing workers not only to government agencies like CDC.

    2. Answer to why workers have been kept on ships despite official recommendations to disembark all people on cruise ships. If “skeleton crews” are required to maintain vessels then that should be voluntary and paid at hazardous a pay scale.

    3. Share their outbreak management plans, with confirmation from workers that outbreak management training was provided, and a sanitation certificate.

    4. The crew must have the right to hold meetings on board independent of company representatives or the officers of the ship. They must have the fundamental right, especially during this pandemic, to have physically distanced meetings to establish their own Health and Safety Committee recognized by the employer with the power to determine unsafe working conditions.

  8. Governments of workers’ home countries must extend full assistance to the workers (e.g., through funds meant for assistance to nationals). This means ensuring humane testing and treatment of workers upon repatriation; investigating and prosecuting locally based agencies complicit in cruise lines’ exploitation of seafarers; and ending any government policies or practices that enable cruise lines to endanger workers’ health, safety, and well-being.

In solidarity,

Migrante NorCal

ASATA (Alliance of South Asians Taking Action)

NAFCON (National Alliance for Filipino Concerns)

PAWIS (People’s Association for Workers and Immigrants)

FCC (Filipino Community Center)

ABSF (Anakbayan SF)

Filipinx Health Initiative SF

League of Filipino Students - SFSU

Equality Labs

Petition by
Rhdesai10@berkeley.edu
Berkeley, California

To: Carnival Corporation & PLC, Royal Carribean Cruises, Norwegian Cruiseline Holdings, Genting Hong Kong Cruises, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
From: [Your Name]

We Demand Just Treatment for Workers Stranded on Coronavirus-Stricken Cruise Ships

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the plight of seafarers, and particularly of cruise ship workers, to the attention of the public. However, the cruise ship industry has a history of worker exploitation (1) (2), unwilling to provide the seafarers who are its backbone basic human rights both during and outside of this COVID-19 Pandemic. This is an industry notorious for subjecting workers to egregiously long hours and low pay and using flags of convenience to exploit workers by avoiding unions, taxes, and environmental laws. COVID-19 has heightened these long-existing inequalities among seafarers, most of whom are foreign nationals from Asia.

Laws around seafarers, and their application, have created spaces in the global economy where migrant workers are institutionally subject to particular, often subordinating, conditions. Even the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure recently acknowledged that “Long before the COVID-19 pandemic began to race around the world, affecting local communities, churches, cities, homes, hospitals, and cruise ships sailing at sea, the cruise industry had a problem managing, containing, and responding to public health outbreaks.” This committee opened an investigation of Carnival Corporation, alleging that “officials at Carnival were aware of the threats to some of its ships and did not take appropriate actions, which may have led to greater infections and the spread of the disease,” based on reporting from Bloomberg Businessweek.

Carnival Corporation & PLC, whose 2018 net revenues totaled around $4.229 billion and who represents the majority market share of major cruise lines, is failing to treat its workers with the dignity they deserve. According to the notice from the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, “Even a senior CDC official who leads the CDC’s cruise ship task force was quoted as saying she had a hard time believing that Carnival was simply “a victim of happenstance.”

Major cruise lines have thus far resisted all calls for transparency regarding any measures it has supposedly taken to guarantee crew members’ safety, and, because of this lack of transparency, we cannot be sure that workers are safe from harm amidst the current pandemic. It’s clear that major cruise lines such as Carnival are far more concerned with their own operations and profits than the safety and well-being of their workers, that they are “still trying to sell this cruise line fantasy and ignoring the public health threat posed by coronavirus to potential future passengers and crew.”

Therefore, we demand that major cruise lines take all necessary measures to preserve the health, safety, and well-being of their crew members in light of the COVID-19 infection on hundreds of cruise ships currently stranded in ports across the world, and that these cruise lines be fully transparent with regards to their management of the outbreak and labor violations of their vulnerable worker populations, which has so far led to multiple positive tests for COVID 19 (primarily in workers) and multiple fatalities.

When our most vulnerable populations go unprotected, we are all at risk.

Workers continue to face a high risk of exposure and infection until they are disembarked and provided testing, medical care, and safe quarantine. Help amplify the voices of these workers who are demanding COVID-19 testing & treatment, repatriation to their home countries, compensation for lost wages, and transparency from major cruise lines by signing this petition and sharing it with your networks.

We demand that these major cruise lines take the necessary immediate action to preserve the health, safety, and well-being of its workers on all of its ships, including:

1. Disembarking, testing, and humanely treating all workers. All workers must be tested, and not just screened for symptoms, and that testing must be paid for by the cruise line. Those who test positive must be given proper treatment and documentation of the treatment, and those who test negative must be provided the documentation proving negative test status and be allowed to go ashore if tested negative and not be imprisoned on the ship. Those testing negative have the right to go ashore with their documentation just as before the pandemic.

2. Providing all workers with comprehensive medical and mental health services. Workers should be provided access to a social worker and full psychiatric and medical evaluations and treatment to address their mental and physical health concerns upon disembarking, especially after being quarantined on a contaminated ship with limited to no contact with their families, their union representation, and the outside world throughout this traumatic experience.

3. Providing safe housing accommodations. Disturbingly, in the case of Grand Princess, the San Francisco Port Commission indicated that workers may have been forced to stay on the ship. We believe that all workers (non-essential and essential) should be removed from the ships, per WHO guidelines, and provided temporary housing in a local hotel, paid for by the cruise lines, throughout the duration of their basic quarantine and their process of returning to their home countries, until they reach their own homes safely and completely healthy.

4. Compensating workers for lost wages for their full contracted term, ensuring financial and job security. Seafarers' families are dependent on allotments from their wages for their loved ones. Some companies have stopped their wages calling them “guest workers” when in fact they are trapped on the ship and unable to provide for their families. The shipowners must continue to pay their wages through the pandemic or until they are properly repatriated. According to their CBA, seafarers are entitled to additional compensation specified in the event of an unexpected termination of their voyage or contract. Cruise lines need to honor all their commitments to its workers whose contracted work will be terminated prematurely by this public health crisis. Beyond that, these cruise lines should provide hazard pay for work conducted while onboard infected ships, and any and all additional compensation needed to restore the workers’ being “fit to work.” Finally, the cruise lines should not discriminate in the rehiring and recontracting of these workers when the industry restores its cruise operations.

5. Covering all costs attendant to repatriating workers to their countries of origin. After providing testing and humane treatment, these cruise lines must work with the workers’ home countries to repatriate the workers and cover the cost, as expeditiously as possible.

6. Decommissioning all ships and having them professionally disinfected. Considering that dozens of cruise ships have had positive cases of coronavirus, the cruise lines should take the most health-protective approach and pay to have these ships disinfected by professionals, not by their own exploited workers, with proper protection and equipment in accordance with WHO guidelines.

7. Transparency on its management of the COVID-19 outbreak. Specifically, these major cruise lines must:
a. Publicly and regularly divulge their processes around testing workers not only to government agencies like CDC.
b.Answer to why workers have been kept on ships despite official recommendations to disembark all people on cruise ships. If “skeleton crews” are required to maintain vessels then that should be voluntary and paid at hazardous a pay scale.
c. Share their outbreak management plans, with confirmation from workers that outbreak management training was provided, and a sanitation certificate.
d. The crew must have the right to hold meetings onboard independent of company representatives or the officers of the ship. They must have the fundamental right, especially during this pandemic, to have physically distanced meetings to establish their own Health and Safety Committee recognized by the employer with the power to determine unsafe working conditions.

8. Governments of workers’ home countries must extend full assistance to the workers (e.g., through funds meant for assistance to nationals). This means ensuring humane testing and treatment of workers upon repatriation; investigating and prosecuting locally based agencies complicit in cruise lines’ exploitation of seafarers; and ending any government policies or practices that enable cruise lines to endanger workers’ health, safety, and well-being.

In solidarity,

Migrante NorCal

ASATA (Alliance of South Asians Taking Action)

NAFCON (National Alliance for Filipino Concerns)

PAWIS (People’s Association for Workers and Immigrants)

FCC (Filipino Community Center)

ABSF (Anakbayan SF)

Filipinx Health Initiative SF

League of Filipino Students - SFSU

Equality Labs