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Why cruise ship workers take brutal jobs

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cruise ship employee
Cruise ship employees can
receive low pay, work long hours, and receive inadequate medical
care.

Don Ryan/Associated
Press



  • Working on a cruise ship may sound like an exciting
    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.
  • 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. 

 

Working on a cruise ship may sound like an exciting 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.

Often signed to six or eight-month contracts, cruise ship
employees often work seven days a week for a minimum of 12 hours
per day, while making anywhere from around $550-$2,000 per month,
Jim Walker, a maritime lawyer for Walker and O’Neill,
said.

“They’re overworked and they’re
underpaid,” he said.

And those who have the most physically demanding jobs, like
waiters and cleaners, tend to receive inadequate medical
care when they first report an injury, Walker said. Often,
they’ll 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, as doing so can lower their odds
of receiving a new contract, Walker said.



Read more:
A lawyer who reps cruise-ship workers reveals the most shocking
thing he’s heard about their job


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, and Winkleman, said.

“For [cruise ship employees] the
story is always the same,” he said. “In their home country, they
can maybe make a few hundred dollars a month, 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 labor 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.

When cruise ship workers are mistreated, they have few options,
Walker and Winkleman said. Cruise lines often register their
businesses and ships in countries — like the Bahamas, Panama, and
Bermuda — with relatively lax labor laws, a practice known as
“flying a flag of convenience.” And cruise lines 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
favorable 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 favorable ruling to
increase the odds of receiving future business.

Combined, the above factors make cruise ships difficult places to
work for many employees.

“I would call it ‘purgatory at sea,'” Winkleman said.

Have you worked on a cruise ship? Do you have a story to
share? Email this reporter at [email protected]

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