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Health and safety

Nautilus flags global union support for cruise crew affected by coronavirus pandemic

19 March 2020

Nautilus is working with the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) to support seafarers affected by sudden lay-offs and contract voiding due to cruise cancellations mid voyage.

The Union is a member of the ITF's Cruise Ship Task Force (CSTF) which is supporting seafarers and monitoring the fast-changing situation.

'We are pleased to see that the Union, ITF and employers are working together – a successful cruise industry that can quickly bounce back from the worldwide effects of COVID-19, with increased resilience should such a situation arise again, will be to the benefit of seafarers and employers alike,' Nautilus international organiser Danny McGowan said.

'Those seafarers working onboard cruise ships, who still currently rely on tips, gratuities and service charges to make up a proportion of their wages, are likely to suffer further from the effect of the pandemic on the cruise industry.'

Nautilus has called for special emergency assistance measures to safeguard seafarers' livelihoods by treating them as key workers and providing exemptions from travel and other restrictions being imposed for Covid-19 containment.

Nautilus ITF inspector Tommy Molloy said that some cruise crew have had difficulty with repatriations during layoffs.

In some countries, passengers have been allowed off but not crew, he said.

'Skeleton crew who remain may have concerns over wages in respect of those who will remain as watchkeepers,' Mr Molloy said. 

ITF unions can assist seafarers that are having difficulty getting paid.

The CSTF has made the following proposals to keep seafarers employed and costs down while cruise vessels are in lay-up:

  • seafarers must be paid their normal remuneration while their vessel has passengers on board, subject to the Minimum Guaranteed Wages
  • seafarers must be paid the Minimum Guaranteed Wages when the vessel is laid-up or sailing without passengers for the first month

After one month in lay-up or the ship having sailed without passengers seafarers must be given two choices:

  1. seafarers are signed off and paid the agreed-on retrenchment remuneration, i.e. two months' basic wages or one month Guaranteed Wages as a minimum;

or alternatively if staying on board and both the company and individual seafarer agrees;

  1. reduce the seafarers' working week to 40 hours and pay basic wages and leave pay and allow the 40-hour work week to be used on any five days of the week

Nautilus Members who are concerned or are experiencing difficulties related to the coronavirus outbreak are advised to contact their industrial organiser or the 24/7 helpline for assistance.


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