I didn't think that I would find myself commented again so quickly on the issue of all-inclusive holidays! My attention was turned toward an article in Sunday's Guardian, which highlighted that 'P&O cruise ship staff paid basic salary of 75p an hour'! It seems the calculation used here is based on a junior waiter earning a basic salary of £250.00p per month, working 7 days a week for 11 hours a day. The article is apparently prompted by P&O's decision to withhold tips and introducing a bonus system for performance. In the case of a junior waiter, the article suggests that they could earn a further £150 per month and that this would amount to a 'significantly increased salary'. It appears that the move away from receiving cash tips has been brought about by passengers not opting to pay the recommended level of tips through a new electronic system! As many of you know, we receive a large number of complaints from passengers who have been on cruises - holiday or cruise complaints consist of illness (claims of the so-called norovirus abound!), accidents, assaults, sexual assaults, harassment and so on. The cruise is very much an all-inclusive holiday; passengers often travel on a package and their 'hotel' provides everything they need and transports them to and from a variety of destinations - it is for many the height of luxury!
However, on further reading of this article we also discover that crew will have to achieve a high percentage ranking (c.92 to 96%) in order to qualify for their bonus. What is most concerning is the following comments made by a senior executive from the company which seeks to justify a wage level, they apparently stated;
"You've got staff from eastern Europe in restaurants in Britain - why? Because it's great money. Yes, the minimum wage is more than we pay, but this is a global industry. Our businesses have to remain competitive...let's not forget the level of take-home pay for our staff, the vast majority of whom come from India. Look at hotels in Goa. The earning ability is greater on our ships...we have a manning office in Mumbai. there are queues out onto the street. It clearly is of value to these people".
It is an interesting argument because I have heard the same comments repeated at meetings I have attended by the aviation industry. They complain that the International level for compensation for air accidents under the Montreal Convention, is to high and wrong for 'people' (their word not mine) from third world or developing countries as their 'value' and 'need' for money is much less than ours!
Do you get the sense of colonialism here?
Is it the case that National Colonialism has been replaced by the Corporate variety!
So why is this important? Well in my article the other day, I highlighted the excellent work of Tourism Concern and how we too were discovering that the 'end' product or the resort was receiving little benefit from tourism. The Guardian's article highlights that 750k holidaymakers left British Ports last year on cruises and the cruise industry revenues rose to £2.4bn!
I thought I should set that out in all its glory - £2,400,000,000.00p!
It is important because cruisers are a captive audience, ferried to the 'right spots' (this refers to the 'organised' tours - do they bring a true benefit to a local economy?) and hopefully receiving a first class service. However, if things go wrong onboard a ship, could it be that the crew are exhausted, not paid enough or there is little regard to the working rights? Perhaps the sage words in the Guardian article of Brenda Barber cuts to the issue;
"Holidaymakers will be horrified to learn that some of the seafarers on their cruise ships are paid so little. It's high time the disgraceful practice of allowing the shipping industry to pay poverty wages to workers who don't live in the UK was stopped. Exploitative rates of pay for those working on British ships have no place in a modern society".
So again I say to holidaymakers, the holiday experience is not just about booking from the brochure and having a good time, it is also about taking ownership of some of these important issues. If you are shocked by this article, challenge your cruise company to explain their 'colonial' position; if you want to tip, then do so directly - show your appreciation of service directly, but above all, do not lose sight of the fact that these crew members are ordinary human beings like you and me, who have families and ambitions and deserve to be treated with respect by all!