Cruise Line Accused Of Subjecting Crew To “Slave-like” Working Conditions

Our Cruise Ship Attorneys have dedicated their decades of experience to representing cruise ship passengers that are injured by the acts or omissions of the cruise ship industry and its employees. However, as this blog has mentioned recently, it is sometimes a cruise ship’s crew that is injured by the negligence of a cruise company.

Late last week, the BBC published a report proclaiming that Brazilian law enforcement authorities had boarded a ship belonging to MSC Crociere as it was docked at the city of Salvador, as part of a month-long investigation into allegations of labor abuses. The investigation was launched following a tip-off from MSC crew members claiming that they had been forced to work up to 16 hours a day and some subjected to sexual harassment. According to the story, Brazilian officials said the eleven crew members were working in “slave-like conditions.”

Brazilian Labor Ministry director Alexandre Lyra commented, “The fact that they had signed a contract, even an international contract, does not mean that the basic human rights should not be respected.” In response to the allegations, MSC issued a statement, “MSC Crociere is in full compliance with national and international labour regulations and is ready to co-operate with the authorities.”

The plight of these MSS crew members emphasizes the need for better laws protecting cruise ship passengers and crew while in international waters. Under U.S. law, cruise ship crew members who are injured on the job are protected by the provisions of the “Jones Act.” The Jones Act allows a seamen who is injured as the result of the negligence of an employer or co-worker in the course of his or employment to recover for those injuries.

Specifically, injured seamen are entitled to recover two different type of financial compensation from their employer known as “maintenance” and “cure” benefits. “Maintenance” requires the cruise line to continue paying a crew member wages in the event an on-the-job injury prevents the individual from being physically able to work, while “Cure” is the obligation of the cruise line to provide a crew member with medical care in the event an injury is sustained in the course of employment.

Even with the current dearth of international laws protecting cruise ship passengers and crew, U.S. lawmakers are considering additional legislation further limiting the rights of cruise workers to recover under the Jones Act. That legislation, recently discussed on this blog, would essentially prevent foreign cruise ship employees from filing lawsuits in U.S. courts to recover for injury or illness incurred while working on a cruise ship. Not only would such as measure unfairly discriminate against foreign crew members, but it would further encourage cruise companies to hire only non U.S. citizens, to avoid the potential of being sued in U.S. Courts by non-citizen crew members.

The Florida Cruise Ship Accident Attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. are licensed to practice law in all of Florida’s state and federal courts and have been representing crew members and cruise ship employees injured at sea for over four decades. If you are a seaman or crew member that has been seriously injured on a cargo ship, cruise ship, or sustained an offshore injury, our Florida Maritime Attorneys are here to help.

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