Several MSC crew members state that MSC is attempting to convince them to waive their legal rights to future compensation by signing a repatriation notification document.
MSC recently requested all of its employees on its cruise ships to sign this notification, which states:
“MSC Cruises’ Notification For Crew Members
We care for you, our MSC Family, and want to make you stay safe and healthy during this global crisis of Covid-19, and this is why our ships are stopping and we are sending all of our guests and crew home.
These global actions are out of our control, but we are a strong MSC Family and we believe we will make it through these rough seas to see fair sailing very soon. We offer you free repatriation and will create priority to those who will be leaving mid-contract who wish to join us again.
We thank you for supporting MSC during this emergency situation by filling up the below request.
We would like to thank you for your support over the past week as it has been a time of collective hard work and extraordinary measures, of which we are confident that we can overcome them and be sailing soon with you our MSC Family onboard.
Request of the Crew Member
Due to the Covid-19 virus disrupting our daily operations, I respectfully request that I be repatriated home, as soon as possible. I would also request under the circumstances, that MSC Cruises cover the cost of my return trip home.
As soon as operations are back to normal, I would like to ask that I be given priority to be immediately deployed back to my duties on board the ship. I am choosing to disembark from now (Name of vessel ——-) or any other MSC Cruises vessels.
Thank you very much for your kind understanding of my request for my immediate return home.
DATE OF BIRTH
PLACE OF BIRTH
(signed by the CM)”
The notification is misleading and is borderline fraudulent. We recommend that crew members not be tricked into signing it.
Pursuant to the terms and condition of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA)(photo below left), crew members are contractually entitled to two (2) months of their basic wages unless they have engaged in “drunkenness, insubordination, smuggling, theft” or other faults which are obviously inapplicable here. So if MSC was really concerned with their crew members’ safety and health, they would repatriate their employees and would pay them at least the minimum payments required under the employees’ collective bargaining agreement. Ideally they should be paid for as long as they remain out of work.
Instead, MSC is ignoring the express terms of the CBA and is attempting to convince its ship employees to waive their two months of wages by suggesting that if they elect to leave the ships now, it may hire them back. The notice does not explain that by signing the document, the ship employees are waiving the right to receive payment pursuant to the terms of the CBA. It is a one-sided attempt to save MSC money by appealing to the crew’s loyalty and preying on their fears. But the notice does not require MSC to re-hire anyone. It does not even have a line for anyone to sign on MSC’s behalf. The letter is just a thinly designed ploy to trick the ship employees in waiving their future wages by suggesting that they will have “priority” in being hired again.
If the cruise line is really a “strong MSC family” which will survive the current rough seas and return to sailing “very soon” as it claims, then it should pay the hard working crew their contractual wages at a minimum.
MSC states that it will pay the airfare for those crew members who sign the letter. However, it is already responsible for such transportation unless the crew member engages in misconduct. Many crew members have already signed the letter, without fully appreciating that MSC will deny them their future compensation, because they were afraid that they might be stuck on the ship and might have to pay for the travel home themselves.
I have been contacted by at least a half-dozen MSC crew members who state that they are greatly concerned that MSC is avoiding payment of the wages which they are entitled to receive. All of them have asked to remain anonymous out of fear that MSC will retaliate against them. Many of the crew members are from the Philippines and have worked hard on the MSC ships to support their extended families. They have bills and mortgages to pay. Many have loans, which they took out just to get on the ships, which they must repay. The prospect of MSC abandoning them frightens them.
Many crew members have circulated a letter to the president of the Philippines asking for the government to suspend the payment of mortgages and other financial obligations. This may be especially necessary given MSC efforts to avoid its obligations to its crew members.
The cruise lines are heavily lobbying for a bailout by the U.S. federal government. Yes, the stocks owed by investors and the cruise executives have significantly fallen (from 52 week highs to today’s lows: RCL is down from $135 to $20, CCL from $52 to $9, and NCL from $60 to $7) But it is the hard working crew members who will be financially destroyed if their employers who refuse to meet their obligations. If there will be a bailout of the cruise industry, the cruise lines must be compelled to earmark funds to keep their employees financially afloat for the next year.
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Photo credit: MSC Meraviglia Estormiz – CC0 commons / wikimedia.