Pinoy cruise ship workers laid off

THOUSANDS of Filipino workers are being sent home by global cruise ship operators amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACTS-OFW Coalition of Organizations said yesterday.

“There is widespread uncertainty now among Filipino staff on short-term contracts with cruise ships, considering that (cruise) operations around the world have virtually ground to a halt,” said ACTS-OFW chairperson Aniceto Bertiz III, a former party-list congressman.

Bertiz said British-American cruise operator Carnival Corp. & plc has suspended all voyages for 60 days and is sending home all its multinational crew who are mostly Filipinos.

“More than half of the crew on Carnival’s 18 cruise ships are Filipinos earning an average of $1,400 a month on nine-month contracts, and they are being sent home upon disembarkation,” Bertiz, a former member of Congress, said.

Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Co. S.A. has also temporarily ceased operations of MSC Cruises, another a huge employer of Filipinos, Bertiz said.

ACTS-OFW is counting on the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Social Security System (SSS) to provide financial assistance and unemployment insurance to the returning cruise ship staff, Bertiz said.

Countries around the world have blocked the entry of cruise ships, forcing operators to stop voyages.

Cruise ships have been deemed highly vulnerable to COVID-19 because an average of 33 percent of their passengers are 60 years old and above.

A total of 1,043 Filipino staff were affected when two of Carnival’s cruise ships – the Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess – were hit by the virus during their voyages to Yokohama and San Francisco.

A large surplus of English-speaking Tourism as well as Hotel and Restaurant Management college program graduates has enabled the Philippines to supply most of the staff on cruise ships over the years, Bertiz pointed out.