Inside the Issues

El lado oscuro del sector de cruceros

Staff onboard cruise ship*

 











2000

La ITF lanza una campaña de ayuda a las tripulaciones explotadas


La ITF ha ampliado la campaña contra las banderas de conveniencia (BDCs) al sector de buques crucero.

La mayoría de los cruceros ondean las banderas de naciones BDCs como Liberia, Panamá o Bahamas, y sus propietarios se aprovechan de las concesiones fiscales y de la ausencia de derechos laborales. 
  
El carácter multinacional de las tripulaciones de los cruceros implica que la ITF es a menudo el único recurso para los miembros de estas tripulaciones, contra la inevitable explotación y abuso de un sistema basado en las tarifas salariales más bajas. Los marinos pueden acabar trabajando 12 horas diarias, siete días a la semana, durante varios meses, justo para obtener el dinero necesario para pagar a los agentes de contratación y los vuelos hasta y desde el barco.

La ITF ha desarrollado un convenio colectivo de cruceros para los barcos BDCs, que contempla las condiciones de empleo, sueldos y otras prestaciones, y que garantiza a la tripulación cierto nivel salarial al mes. Por ejemplo, un pastelero podría obtener un total de 587 dólares garantizados al mes, y un camarero de cabina 739 dólares. También regula las prestaciones por muerte e incapacidad, enfermedad, horas de trabajo y período vacacional.

Inspectores experimentados de la ITF realizan visitas a los buques crucero para ofrecer servicios sindicales a todos los miembros de la tripulación que necesiten ayuda, por ejemplo a quienes no han cobrado el sueldo, o han sido despedidos injustamente. En algunos puertos, la ITF recomienda que no se emprenda acción alguna, en otros puertos puede que aconseje un período de espera antes de tomar medidas. Sin embargo, antes de que los marinos hagan algo, se les recomienda siempre hablar primero con la ITF.

La ITF, desde luego, estaría encantada de que el sistema de registro BDC desapareciera. Hasta ese momento, si embargo, lucha como una organización para proteger los derechos y salvaguardar los intereses de los individuos que necesitan o eligen trabajar a bordo de los buques BDCs.

La ITF intenta lograr una regulación por medio de acuerdos sindicales negociados en el sector de cruceros, basada en el respeto de los derechos humanos básicos y en una escala salarial justa. En una primera etapa, la estrategia de la ITF es abordar a las compañías que operan con cruceros y pedirles que firmen convenios colectivos aceptables para la ITF. Si se niegan, sus barcos serán identificados como objetivos de lucha para los sindicatos portuarios de la ITF, así como para las campañas de boicot patrocinadas por la ITF contra los barcos no organizados.

La idea es seductora. Que te paguen por viajar alrededor del mundo en barcos modernos y maravillosos. Una verdadera aventura, llena de romance y glamour.

Sin embargo, la imagen es demasiado buena para ser cierta. Debajo de las cubiertas de casi todos los buques crucero existe un mundo secreto de largas horas de trabajo, sueldos escasos, inseguridad y explotación.

Normalmente la jornada diaria de trabajo es de 10 ai3 horas, siete días a la semana. La tripulación que trabaja bajo cubierta, como por ejemplo en cocinas, rara vez ve la luz del día, por no decir el reluciente mar del Caribe.

Los sueldos de los que tienen uno suelen ser tan bajos como 400 dólares al mes, llegando a los 700 para un cocinero con experiencia y mecánicos.

La mayoría del personal doméstico son "empleados de propinas" que reciben un sueldo de unos 50 dólares al mes y deben confiar en la generosidad de los pasajeros para sobrevivir.

Algunos pasajeros hacen caso de la recomendación de dar una propina de 3 dólares al día para los camareros y personal de camarote. Pero, otros se gastan el dinero en las tiendas libres de impuestos, casinos y bares, aunque los ingresos se calculan teniendo en cuenta la completa ocupación del buque.

Muchos marinos, especialmente los filipinos, tienen que pagar una cantidad de hasta 1.500 dólares al agente de contratación para formar parte de la tripulación del barco. Para quienes reciben el salario más bajo, significa que deben gastar el dinero recibido en un contrato de trabajo de ocho meses para cubrir gastos.

Otro de los trucos de los empresarios es solicitar una "Garantía de Seguridad" de hasta 750 dólares de cada empleado, aparentemente para evitar las deserciones y la consiguiente penalización por parte del Servicio de Inmigración de los Estados Unidos. Esta garantía puede implicar que seis de los ocho meses de trabajo a bordo sirvan únicamente para cubrir gastos.

La disciplina es dura y a veces se aplica al azar. Las quejas de los pasajeros pueden implicar que el personal sea transferido a puestos menos apetecibles (ocupación no plena, por ejemplo), o al despido.

Se sabe que algunos pasajeros se han quejado para evitar el pago de las propinas mínimas por servicio.

Estos factores, así como el alojamiento hacinado, las escasas instalaciones de ocio y la ausencia de una pensión u otras prestaciones sociales, presentan un panorama muy poco atractivo para los marinos potenciales, especialmente para los de países desarrollados.

El resultado es un nivel de movimiento de personal cada vez más acelerado, que supone que la duración media del personal de hotel empleado haya descendido de tres años en 1.970. a 18 meses en 1.990, y a nueve meses en el 2.000.

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Sector growth boosted by new wave of jumbo cruiseships
The cruise ship market continues to boom, creating record profits and providing one of the shipping industry’s most buoyant sectors.

Growth predictions, based on ships already on order, show a further rise in capacity in the order of 50 per cent within the next three years. Most of the new ships are huge vessels in excess of 100,000 tons and offering more than 2,500 berths. The Voyager of the Seas, launched last year by Royal Caribbean Cruises is of 142,000 tons with a capacity to carry 3,000 passengers and 900 crew.

These larger and newer ships offer lower running costs per passenger with a passenger crew ratio of 3:1 compared to the traditional 2:1. Occupancy rates for the big three companies in the industry – Carnival Cruises, Royal Caribbean Lines and Princess Cruises – are currently running at 100 per cent.

Since the mid 1980s, cruise shipping has outstripped all other maritime sectors with an average growth rate of 9.6 per cent a year, compared with the average of all types of vessels of 2.76 per cent (see Table 1).

The number of the cruise ships (1,000 gt and over) has risen from 147 in 1980 to 225 in 1998. But these ships are also bigger and carry more passengers so the total gross tonnage increased from 2,045,000 in 1980 to 6,307,000 in 1998 and the passengers carried from 1.5 million in 1980 to over 7.5 million in 1998 (Table 2).

However, cruise shipping is still relatively immature in the leisure market, even in the United States where cruising represents under three per cent of the holiday market.

The Caribbean has the highest concentration of cruise ships, given its proximity to the United States where 5.4 million Americans went cruising in 1998, expected to rise to 6.2 m this year. By comparison, only 1.2 m Europeans took a cruise and the Mediterranean is constrained by a shorter season.

The only non-Caribbean ports to reach the world’s top ten (see Table 3) are Los Angeles on the US West Coast and Singapore.

A typical cruiseship has a crew of several hundred, with a mixture of about 40 different nationalities. Most cruise ships are registered under a flag of convenience (FOC), bearing no relation to the true ownership of the vessel. The big three register their vessels in Liberia and Panama, while Disney Cruises uses the Bahamas flag.

The cruise sector is very labour intensive and the rapid expansion of the fleet has led to a great increase in demand for seafarers. It is has been estimated that the industry presently employs about 100,000 seafarers, the majority (70 per cent) being hotel and catering staff. At least, another 31,000 seafarers will be needed by 2004 (see Table 4).

If all the 34 vessels currently on order are delivered, with 1.95 million gross tonnage and a capacity of 45,980 crew berths, this figure would double to 60,400.

The growth of the past 10 years has not been without its problems. The industry has been riddled with incidents of sexual harassment at sea. A law suit at Carnival Cruises revealed that there had been more than 100 accusations of sexual harassment and assault against crew members between 1993 and 1998.

In addition, the flourishing Alaskan cruise market – set to top one million passengers this year – was tarnished by a record fine of US$6.5 million being imposed on Royal Caribbean for dumping untreated bilge water, oil and other waste into Alaskan waters.

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Table 1. Development of world merchant fleet, 1988-1999

Ship type Average growth rate %
Bulk carriers   
3.4
Cargo passenger   
-5.6
Chemical tankers  
4.0
Container ships   
9.0
General cargo (multi-deck)   
-2.5
General cargo (single-deck)   
4.9
Liquid gas tankers   
5.3
OBO carriers 
-5.8
Oil tankers   
2.2
Passenger ships   
9.6
Reefer ships  
1.4
Ro-ro cargo ships   
4.3
Ro-ro/passenger ships   
7.7
Special ships   
0.8
Average    
2.8

Source: ISL Bremen (1998)


Table 2. Development of cruise shipping, 1980-1998
(ships of 1,000 gt. and over)

  1980 1998 Growth
No. of ships
147 225 53%
Total GT
2,045,000 6,307,000
208%
Passengers 1,500,000 7,500,000 400%

Source: ISL, 1998; Thomas, 1995 cited in Couper, 1997; Wild, 1999

Table 3. Top 10 cruise ports 1999

Port Passenger total
(out, return and transit) in millions
Miami 2.84
San Juan
1.68 
Port Canaveral
1.35 
St Thomas
1.33 
Cozumel 1.20 
Port Everglades  1.07 
Nassau 1.00 
Grand Cayman
0.97
Los Angeles
0.93 
Singapore  0.90 

Source: GP Wild (International) Ltd

Table 4. Demand for seafarers in cruise fleet, 1996-2004

Year No. seafarers Net growth rate
by %
1996
80,000   
1999
99,000  23%
2004 130,000  31% 
2004*  168,000  70%
* with pending orders

Source: Peisley, 1996; Wild, 1999

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Good news: More jobs at sea for women
Bad news: They face rampant discrimination

Women are making up increasing numbers of cruise ship seafarers, but they are concentrated in the lowly-paid domestic jobs at sea.

The rapid expansion of the fleet, with its consequent demand for labour, has led shipping companies to look to women as a new source of labour supply. In addition, concerns over sexual harassment of both passengers and crew have meant a deliberate policy of recruiting more women has been adopted in order to create a more balanced workforce.

Research by Minghua Zhao, of the ITF-funded Seafarers’ International Research Centre at Cardiff University, based on a survey of more than 60 cruise ships has shown that women now make up about 20 per cent of the seafaring labour force, equivalent to about 15,000 women.

“The operation of the cruise ship is segregated by gender,” says Ms Zhao, “All the captains are men and no woman is found in deck and engine departments. Women concentrate in hotel, catering and other ‘non-technical’ sectors of the vessel.”

Nationality is another main factor in the allocation of jobs. Women from western and developed countries are far more likely to be found in a small number of management or administrative positions. They are also likely to be employed as entertainers, beauticians, nurses, aerobics leaders and receptionists.

On the other hand women from Asian and less developed countries are almost entirely employed in the “hotel” functions of the ship in catering, waiting and cabin staff positions.

The segregation is continued in salary. Western women are almost always paid more than those from less developed countries, even when they are doing the same job.
“The wage levels vary greatly from US$270 to US$2,400 per month for the same or similar positions,” says Ms Zhao. “There are many variables involved. But the seafarers’ nationality is one of the most important factor. For example, waitresses from England, France and Germany are paid more than twice as much as waitresses from Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines on a top-market cruise ship operating worldwide. Similar patterns are found in ships operating in Asia-Pacific.”

Western women are far more likely to be young and single and will have typically worked in the hotel and catering industries. Even when recruited from non-English speaking countries, they will have experience of working in English speaking areas.

They will be going to sea “to meet people from different cultures” or “to see the world” and their prime motivation is not financial. Many of these women were born and brought up in port areas with relatives or friends who have seafaring and/or hotel /catering experience. They do not expect to stay at sea for more than a year or two, before going back on land to familiar jobs in hotels and catering.

Comparatively, more Asian women seafarers are married with children and will tend to have more years of higher education. Like western women, most of these women will have an employment history in hotels or restaurants. Fluency in English varies greatly, with Filipino women being most able to speak English easily. But unlike western women, the prime motivation in going to sea will be financial. They hope to be able to stay on board for longer than western women, the length of time being largely dependent on their financial needs.

Like their male counterparts, women on cruise ships will work long hours, seven days a week. Most will share cabins, which will be segregated from male accommodation.

“We find no woman in any case who has expressed an intention to work at sea for more than six years,” says Ms Zhao. “The hard labour aboard and their consideration for family life, especially marriage and children, are cited as the two most important reasons for them to project their future this way. In this respect, we find not much difference between women from east or women from west nor do we find much evidence indicating a significant difference between women and men.”