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Crew member suicide - a sad story

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28 minutes ago, Cruzinforpeace*** said:

That’s not good to treat the crew like servants but I can say that people in the service industry do not expect to be treated “nice”.  Respect yes, but also tolerant of disrespect.  The customer is always right.  Taking away the “merit” individual tipping has been a big factor in crew morale.  The cruise lines are pocketing your included gratuities for sure.  The crew does not benefit from this method of reward.  The crew loves to see “envelopes”!  That’s why so many of the ships we’ve been on lately we’ve heard constant pitches for extra gratuity.  

 

Yeah, right. Conspiracy theory, anyone? 🙄

 

If the cruise lines were stealing the crew's tips, I would bet there would be a mutiny since the tips are the crew's main source of income.

 

How gullible do you think the rest of us are?  :classic_angry: 

Edited by SantaFeFan

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While I don't agree with the use of the daily service charge as a "team motivational" tool, I will disagree with you that the crew "does not benefit" from them.  I would also take with several grains of salt comments from a "tipped" worker looking for more tips from the customer who provides them.  As I've stated, the MLC requires a base salary for a 40 hour work week, and an overtime rate for hours in excess of 40 (that can be configured anyway the line wishes, so long as the dollar amount works out correctly), and if the cruise line reduces the crew's pay because of reductions in DSC, when the pay drops below the minimum, the cruise line must make up the balance.

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1 hour ago, Cruzinforpeace*** said:

It’s good they have some regulations for crew treatment/hours but I highly

doubt many will report violations because they will definitely lose their jobs.  I’ve seen it happen where if someone does try to “complain” they are sent home and at their own expense because part of their contractual agreement states that they must complete their contract or they will have to pay for their airfare home.

 

As far as the money not going to the crew if fares are raised, that is 100% correct.  The “2 crew to a cabin” is definitely a factor for hiring less crew.  When I worked on Celebrity in the 90’s there were 6 to a cabin!  Pretty tight quarters but again I remember witnessing an overall happier atmosphere amongst the crew.  It was crowded and not too clean in the crew area but it was an “adventure”; we all embraced it as such.  We used to fish off the back of the ship while docked in Bermuda, all levels of crew from officers, cleaners, entertainers and sailors.  We then would cook up our red snappers and share them with our fellow crew members.  It was so much fun.  The cruise lines have less room for more crew quarters on the newer ships.  Those cabins don’t make $ but more passenger cabins do, especially with all the upselling nowadays.  I believe it was a very calculated change across the board except for maybe on the smaller five star lines.  I wish it would change back to the other way like I said; better for the passengers AND the crew.  It would NOT be good for the cruise lines’ bottom lines. They have to pay for all those mega ships they’re building!

Why does 2 to a cabin equate to less crew?  Can you give some statistics to show that there is "less room for more crew on the newer ships"?  As a quick example, RCI's oldest ship, the Empress of the Seas has a pax/crew ratio of 2.75, while the three times larger Oasis of the Seas has a pax/crew ratio of 2.25.  And if you believe that the cruise industry is making huge profits, you need to only look at the Return on Investment, to see that they are very middle of the road investments for their shareholders, and the reason is the need for capital to tie up in the ships.  If you really think that cutting a few crew members allows the cruise lines to afford to build billion dollar ships, then you must think they are paying the crew a lot more than they are.

 

As for not reporting MLC violations, reprisals against crew for doing so are further violations of the Convention, and ships have been detained (kept in port, which is a huge dollar loss for the cruise line, far more than just paying the missing wages) or fined by the port state, and can even lead to ships not being allowed entry into countries.  Life as a seafarer still has a long way to go to match the life of someone in a first world country, but it has come a long way in the last decade.

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39 minutes ago, Cruzinforpeace*** said:

That’s not good to treat the crew like servants but I can say that people in the service industry do not expect to be treated “nice”.  Respect yes, but also tolerant of disrespect.  The customer is always right.  Taking away the “merit” individual tipping has been a big factor in crew morale.  The cruise lines are pocketing your included gratuities for sure.  The crew does not benefit from this method of reward.  The crew loves to see “envelopes”!  That’s why so many of the ships we’ve been on lately we’ve heard constant pitches for extra gratuity.  

I think you are completely off base.  First, keep in mind that the crew on nearly all cruise ships are not from North America.  They come from different cultures where expectations are somewhat different.   And just your own comment "that people in the service industry do not expect to be treated nice" is a darn good reason to treat folks nice :).  As to your gratuity comment we could leave that for a few others who post here and work on ships....but you are completely wrong.  While each line as their own methods, when it comes to dealing with auto-tips, most create a large tipping pool and the money is returned to the crew.  We have friends that work on ships (in both passenger services and also as Senior Officers) and I can assure you that the cruise lines are not "pocketing" your money.  In fact, we know of cases where cruise lines have "enhanced" to pool for various reasons.

 

You are correct that there is some subtle pressure for more tips...but that is simply human nature.  And crew members quickly learn that North Americans are often quite generous with extra tips....while folks from other parts of the world are not.  So some do try and take advantage.  I have a frequent cruise passenger since the mid-70s and do not let tip pressure force me to do anything.  However, when we get outstanding service (which happens on many cruises) we will often show our appreciation with a "bonus."  

 

Hank

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Denial is a terrible thing.  I guess it makes it you feel better to say that the crew is actually receiving what they deserve.  They are receiving the minimum the cruise line is required to give them and nothing more.  Remember they are not working in the United States under our labor laws.  I would venture to say that none of the passengers commenting on Cruise Critic would be willing to work in the conditions and for the pay these crew members work for.  Having worked for cruise lines as a crew member I had “inside access” to what happens behind the scenes. Also having spoken with many crew members while cruising as a passenger I know that they definitely do not receive as much money as they used to since the “automatic gratuity” came into existence.  This is not a conspiracy theory.  This is the truth.  Like I said no one will talk about this fact as being a BIG part of the recent suicide problems amongst crew on ships.  They are terribly overworked and underpaid.

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50 minutes ago, Cruzinforpeace*** said:

That’s not good to treat the crew like servants but I can say that people in the service industry do not expect to be treated “nice”.  Respect yes, but also tolerant of disrespect.  

 

Anyone in business knows that respecting your employees is a “must” (if you want to be successful) and does not cost anything

Edited by Luckiestmanonearth

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4 minutes ago, chengkp75 said:

Why does 2 to a cabin equate to less crew?  Can you give some statistics to show that there is "less room for more crew on the newer ships"?  As a quick example, RCI's oldest ship, the Empress of the Seas has a pax/crew ratio of 2.75, while the three times larger Oasis of the Seas has a pax/crew ratio of 2.25.  And if you believe that the cruise industry is making huge profits, you need to only look at the Return on Investment, to see that they are very middle of the road investments for their shareholders, and the reason is the need for capital to tie up in the ships.  If you really think that cutting a few crew members allows the cruise lines to afford to build billion dollar ships, then you must think they are paying the crew a lot more than they are.

 

As for not reporting MLC violations, reprisals against crew for doing so are further violations of the Convention, and ships have been detained (kept in port, which is a huge dollar loss for the cruise line, far more than just paying the missing wages) or fined by the port state, and can even lead to ships not being allowed entry into countries.  Life as a seafarer still has a long way to go to match the life of someone in a first world country, but it has come a long way in the last decade.

You must work in the office of a cruise line.

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58 minutes ago, Cruzinforpeace*** said:

You must work in the office of a cruise line.

Hardly.  I've never worked in an office in my life.  I am a lifelong (43 years) marine engineer who has worked on ships all my life, including cruise ships.

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55 minutes ago, Cruzinforpeace*** said:

I can say that people in the service industry do not expect to be treated “nice”.

I, also, take issue with this point.  I worked in the service industry for a number of years, and I certainly did expect to be treated "nice".  In the course of my work I treated the customers "nice" why should they treat me the same?  

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Just now, chengkp75 said:

Hardly.  I've never worked in an office in my life.  I am a lifelong (43 years) marine engineer who has worked on ships all my life, including cruise ships.

Clearly you were oblivious to the plight of those around you.  The “lower level” crew do not have the luxuries of officer or staff status.  They work like dogs; 7 days a week , 16 hours a day for 6-9 months a contract.  If they don’t complete their contract they have to pay their airfare home which would most likely be all their pay. It borders on slave labor and it needs to change.

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3 minutes ago, Shmoo here said:

I, also, take issue with this point.  I worked in the service industry for a number of years, and I certainly did expect to be treated "nice".  In the course of my work I treated the customers "nice" why should they treat me the same?  

That’s the problem with the “service industry” today.  I don’t know, I also worked for Disney World so it was ingrained in me to be “guest focused”.  They are paying ALOT of money and expect good service.  “If you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen” is what I was always taught.  I was always taught to take it with a smile and put the guest first.

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27 minutes ago, Cruzinforpeace*** said:

Denial is a terrible thing.  I guess it makes it you feel better to say that the crew is actually receiving what they deserve.  They are receiving the minimum the cruise line is required to give them and nothing more.  Remember they are not working in the United States under our labor laws.  I would venture to say that none of the passengers commenting on Cruise Critic would be willing to work in the conditions and for the pay these crew members work for.  Having worked for cruise lines as a crew member I had “inside access” to what happens behind the scenes. Also having spoken with many crew members while cruising as a passenger I know that they definitely do not receive as much money as they used to since the “automatic gratuity” came into existence.  This is not a conspiracy theory.  This is the truth.  Like I said no one will talk about this fact as being a BIG part of the recent suicide problems amongst crew on ships.  They are terribly overworked and underpaid.

 

Like I said earlier: "Yeah, right!" Keep posting your imaginary theories - they are fun to read. 

 

When I worked as a cabin steward, I feasted on caviar and champagne every night.  (See? I can make stuff up too!)

Edited by SantaFeFan

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58 minutes ago, Cruzinforpeace*** said:

Clearly you were oblivious to the plight of those around you.  The “lower level” crew do not have the luxuries of officer or staff status.  They work like dogs; 7 days a week , 16 hours a day for 6-9 months a contract.  If they don’t complete their contract they have to pay their airfare home which would most likely be all their pay. It borders on slave labor and it needs to change.

Clearly, I was not oblivious, as I worked quite well with all levels of crew, as a good manager or supervisor should.  As a Staff Chief Engineer, I had daily interactions with all crew, including all hotel staff, as part of my job was ensuring the maintenance of all the hotel infrastructure.  For what its worth, you as an entertainer had nearly the "luxuries" of an officer.

 

"Work 7 days a week":  every single mariner, on every single ship afloat (and cruise ships account for about 5% of the world's shipping) work 7 days a week, no weekends or holidays off.  That's the life.

 

"16 hours a day", may have been the norm back in the day of larger crews, but it is against the law these days, and Port State Control agencies like the USCG, when they do their inspections, check the required records of random crew to ensure that they are not being worked more than the mandatory hours.

 

"6-9 month contracts", I had people who chose to do 3 consecutive 10 month contracts, and did so without a complaint.

 

"If they don't complete their contract, they have to pay their airfare home", again, this is standard on every ship, everywhere in the world, every single day for the hundreds of thousands of merchant mariners.  If you quit or are fired, why should your employer pay your way home?  If you move to a new town to take a job, and then you quit, does the employer have the responsibility to move you back?

 

Gee, who sets all these harsh rules for merchant mariners?  Why the IMO and the ILA, international agencies whose member nations include the Philippines and Indonesia, and India where the vast majority of mariners (not just cruise ship crew) come from.  If they felt that the conditions were "slave labor" for their citizens, why don't they change the rules?  Countries like the US have just one vote in these bodies, equal to the Philippines and other countries that represent the majority of mariners.

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1 hour ago, Cruzinforpeace*** said:

Denial is a terrible thing.  I guess it makes it you feel better to say that the crew is actually receiving what they deserve.  They are receiving the minimum the cruise line is required to give them and nothing more.  Remember they are not working in the United States under our labor laws.  I would venture to say that none of the passengers commenting on Cruise Critic would be willing to work in the conditions and for the pay these crew members work for.  Having worked for cruise lines as a crew member I had “inside access” to what happens behind the scenes. Also having spoken with many crew members while cruising as a passenger I know that they definitely do not receive as much money as they used to since the “automatic gratuity” came into existence.  This is not a conspiracy theory.  This is the truth.  Like I said no one will talk about this fact as being a BIG part of the recent suicide problems amongst crew on ships.  They are terribly overworked and underpaid.

If the crew were "terribly overworked and underpaid", then there would be a suicide epidemic across the world's merchant fleets, as the pay and work hours are little different between cruise ships and cargo ships.  Haven't heard about any such epidemic.  You are correct that no one from the US would work for the pay that the crew receive, but then again you are projecting your US-centric viewpoint onto the crew, who actually make a middle class income in their home countries.

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I’m signing off as this is a pointless discussion.  Sadly, there are many things being said here that are simply untrue.  I was just trying to investigate what’s changed over the years to see why there are more suicides. There are victims involved and there is definitely a reason for the suicides that has SOMETHING to do with work conditions.  Sad that nothing will probably be done to help crew in these situations in the future.  I wish you all well and safe sailings.

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58 minutes ago, Cruzinforpeace*** said:

I’m signing off as this is a pointless discussion.  Sadly, there are many things being said here that are simply untrue.  I was just trying to investigate what’s changed over the years to see why there are more suicides. There are victims involved and there is definitely a reason for the suicides that has SOMETHING to do with work conditions.  Sad that nothing will probably be done to help crew in these situations in the future.  I wish you all well and safe sailings.

And lots of them are yours.  Since you claim that there is a "spate" of suicides, and "many" lately, I'd love to see statistics that the rate of suicide among cruise ship crew is any higher than the median rate in the crews' home countries.  It is merely that the way cruise ship crew decide to commit suicide brings it to the attention of US media.

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2 hours ago, Cruzinforpeace*** said:

 

...

 

. There are victims involved and there is definitely a reason for the suicides that has SOMETHING to do with work conditions.  Sad that nothing will probably be done to help crew in these situations in the future.  I wish you all well and safe sailings.

 

 

 

There must have also been a reason for the  687 New Jersey residents who committed suicide in 2016.  Because they clearly were not involved in the same activity, it is unlikely that work conditions had much to do with the situation.  Do you think it was the New Jersey environment?  And, if so, do you think something can’t be done about it?

 

My point is that there are many reasons/causes - and spouting incorrect information about the ambient conditions does nothing to address the tragic problem.  

 

At the least, can you provide per capita data to help us understand the magnitude of the problem of crew suicides?

 

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7 hours ago, Cruzinforpeace*** said:

Clearly you were oblivious to the plight of those around you.  The “lower level” crew do not have the luxuries of officer or staff status.  They work like dogs; 7 days a week , 16 hours a day for 6-9 months a contract.  If they don’t complete their contract they have to pay their airfare home which would most likely be all their pay. It borders on slave labor and it needs to change.

Don't like the slave job or lousy pay on cruise ship? Feel free to work somewhere else or apply for the Captain's job. No one is forcing anyone to sign up and subject themselves to abuse.

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10 hours ago, Cruzinforpeace*** said:

Clearly you were oblivious to the plight of those around you.  The “lower level” crew do not have the luxuries of officer or staff status.  They work like dogs; 7 days a week , 16 hours a day for 6-9 months a contract.  If they don’t complete their contract they have to pay their airfare home which would most likely be all their pay. It borders on slave labor and it needs to change.

I served in the US Navy and when we were at sea the vast majority of us worked 7 days a week, oftentimes up to 20 hours a day depending on the current operational tempo. Life at sea is hard work, period. (Oh, and my contracts were 4 years long:classic_wink:.) 

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Just a little quick research comes up with the statistic that the worldwide suicide rate is 10.1 per 100,000 population, and that there are about 250,000 crew employed on cruise ships.  If the working conditions are what trigger crew suicide, then these suicides should appear on the ships, at a rate of 25 per year.  I haven't heard of that many suicides on cruise ships, has anyone?

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1 hour ago, chengkp75 said:

Just a little quick research comes up with the statistic that the worldwide suicide rate is 10.1 per 100,000 population, and that there are about 250,000 crew employed on cruise ships.  If the working conditions are what trigger crew suicide, then these suicides should appear on the ships, at a rate of 25 per year.  I haven't heard of that many suicides on cruise ships, has anyone?

And I'm not a statistician (can't even spell it even, had to rely on spellcheck) but if the working conditions triggered crew suicides wouldn't we expect to see a higher suicide rate than in the rest of society?  

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On 1/28/2019 at 4:29 PM, Cruzinforpeace*** said:

Denial is a terrible thing.  I guess it makes it you feel better to say that the crew is actually receiving what they deserve.  They are receiving the minimum the cruise line is required to give them and nothing more.  Remember they are not working in the United States under our labor laws.  I would venture to say that none of the passengers commenting on Cruise Critic would be willing to work in the conditions and for the pay these crew members work for.  Having worked for cruise lines as a crew member I had “inside access” to what happens behind the scenes. Also having spoken with many crew members while cruising as a passenger I know that they definitely do not receive as much money as they used to since the “automatic gratuity” came into existence.  This is not a conspiracy theory.  This is the truth.  Like I said no one will talk about this fact as being a BIG part of the recent suicide problems amongst crew on ships.  They are terribly overworked and underpaid.

Wow, with 5 years of seatime as an entertainer and you obviously consider yourself an expert in Marine Law and working conditions. BTW - many of the responses provided are not from passengers.

 

You have been provided some excellent responses by a real expert (ChengKP75), who has over 40 years seatime working in the engine room in positions up to and including Chief Engineer. He has exceptional knowledge of Flag State Regulation and also IMO/ILO guidelines.

 

I also have almost 40 years of seatime, which includes about 28 years in command of large Ro/Pax vessels and in addition to time at sea, did spend time ashore managing regulatory issues and writing a company Level 2 ISM Operational Manual. When I went to sea in 1975, as a cadet, I could only dream of having the standard of accommodation enjoyed by current crews. Yes, we had 3 to a cabin that was about 1/2 the size of current 2-berth crew cabins. Washrooms in the cabins was but a dream. A/C - yes we had A/C, we put a scoop out the porthole to bring in hot, salty and humid air. Painting railings with our hands and rags was common, as was scrubbing decks with a toothbrush. I believe they called it character building.

 

However, our cabins were spotless, as we did the cleaning, polishing brass/wood and making our bunks a very specific way. BTW - we enjoyed daily rounds, where they used white gloves, torches and mirrors to locate even the smallest particle of dust. These are just a couple of the experiences we enjoyed on our first trip, none of which are permitted these days.

 

Yes, many crew on cruise ships work 6 - 9 month contracts. Well, I know many mariners that went to sea at 16 years old and signed on for 2.5 Years. Yes - Years. They could only dream of going home on leave after only 9 months.

 

While you may consider the current wages for crew members to be low, the cruise lines are building ever larger ships at an amazing rate and have no problem finding crew. Having both worked for Princess and cruised with them as a passenger I frequently met crew members who spent many years with the company. If working conditions were so bad and wages were so low, why do they keep returning. The reason being they are well off in their home countries.

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On 1/29/2019 at 6:25 AM, sparks1093 said:

I served in the US Navy and when we were at sea the vast majority of us worked 7 days a week, oftentimes up to 20 hours a day depending on the current operational tempo. Life at sea is hard work, period. (Oh, and my contracts were 4 years long:classic_wink:.) 

Of course in the USN we got 30 days paid vacation per year plus free medical and dental care.  The work days were long when watch-standing was added to days work and ongoing operations;  but things were easier when alongside after returning from deployment.

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1 hour ago, navybankerteacher said:

Of course in the USN we got 30 days paid vacation per year plus free medical and dental care.  The work days were long when watch-standing was added to days work and ongoing operations;  but things were easier when alongside after returning from deployment.

That's why I specified "when at sea":classic_wink:

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