This week we reported that the former Carnival vessel Grand Celebration was reportedly sold by Bahama’s Paradise Cruise Line. It now turns out that there might have been a good reason for selling the vessel. The Miami Herald reports an $875,000 settlement after the cruise line had reportedly imprisoned and forced crew into unpaid labor.
Case number 1:20–cv–23223 has been handled by U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom for the Southern District of Florida. The lawsuit states that Crew members were forced to work aboard Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line Ships for five months without pay. The crew has also been forced into signing documents that stated:
“I voluntary request to stay onboard instead of choosing to fly home. By choosing to stay onboard without pay until the government has lifted restrictions for me to return home or until Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line returns to normal operation.”
If crew members refused to sign the paperwork, they were told they would not be rehired, or at the very least be the last ones to be put back on board once the line resumed cruising.
The Conditions Onboard
The lawsuit goes into great detail about how far the Cruise Line went to force the crew into submission. Crew members were reportedly denied sufficient water (3 bottles of 1.5 liters per week) while the food was served without any measures to avoid the potential spread of COVID-19.
There were threats of imprisonment and promises of $1000- one-time payments that never came. The Miami Herald reports there are recordings of these conversations between cruise-line and ships-management.
As time passed, crew members begged to be repatriated. The company stalled and claimed the CDC did not allow the company to repatriate the crew. Although repatriation has been difficult, the CDC has never denied any company the right to repatriate its crew.
Even when The Honduran consulate in Miami, Florida, said it had assisted in negotiating a repatriation flight for Honduran crew members, the cruise line reputedly refused to allow these crew members to get off the vessel onto the flight.
Judge Calls Settlement “wholly inadequate”- Cruise Line Claims Cash Flow Issues
Lawyers had reached an agreement in September on a settlement of $875.000 for the 275 crew members. However, Judge Bloom called this settlement inadequate. The judge thinks the payment does do enough to compensate the crew members.
The settlement says that the company should pay crew members two-months severance pay and an additional $1000- for ‘any and all work performed.’ It would work out to around $2000- per crew member for five months of work. Around $262.500 would be paid to lawyers and administrative costs.
It seems an agreement like this would not be agreed upon by the judge as it does not compensate the crew 100%. Neither does the agreement stop the company from doing the same again.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line: “Never intended to ‘stiff’ the crew”
Company lawyer Catherine MacIvor said in reaction to the judge that the company never intended to ‘stiff’ the crew members.
“The company is cash strapped,” she said. “They were housing them, feeding them. There were a couple of people making food for the crew. They were well taken care of.”
The fact that the company is this cash strapped could well be why Grand Celebration has been sold off. Although the cruise line is small, the costs involved with keeping ships operating, even without guests, are significant. Whatever the reason, it is about time that the cruise line takes its responsibility and pays crew members their dues.
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