The Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) has formally expressed concern about the welfare of the thousands of cruise ship workers on vessels docked in Carlisle Bay and the Port of Bridgetown.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic triggered the closure of seaports around the world, including among Caribbean neighbours, a number of cruise ships has been berthed here while crew members await flights back to their home countries.
But last week, a 29-year-old Filipino crew member on board a vessel docked at the harbour was found dead of an apparent suicide.
In a release, CTUSAB said: “The plight of the over 100,000 thousand cruise ship employees who have been trapped at sea since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, is a cause for concern to the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Association of Barbados (CTUSAB).
“The fact that these workers are denied access to disembark the vessels which are docked in ports or anchored offshore, and are forced to remain on board for periods in excess of 60 days, raises questions about the quality of life that they must be experiencing.”
While the trade union umbrella organisation commended Government for its “humane approach” in accommodating the vessels and their crews, it also urged that the treatment of these workers conforms with Barbadian standards. CTUSAB also reiterated the “necessity to give expression to safe people, safe work and decent work, including the environment that impacts on mental health”.
The Congress in expressing concern about the treatment of cruise ship workers, and the hardship which some are being forced to endure, also noted that several cruise ship employees have been affected by the COVID-19 virus. At least, one Barbadian crew member tested positive for the virus on her return home.
CTUSAB also lamented that cruise lines were bucking the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) recommendation to pay crew members at least sick wages during the COVID-19 pandemic whether the crew is quarantined on land or ship.
The congress said: “Apart from the health issue, there is that of undue hardship which is being brought about by the payment policies of the cruise lines.
“Our research reveals that some cruise lines have not paid their workers since the month of March, while in another instance, crew members are being paid for sixty (60) days past the end of their contract.
“Since many Barbadian and other Caribbean nationals are employed on cruise ships, CTUSAB stresses the point that these matters ought to capture the attention of the local and regional labour movement and that of regional governments. It is appropriate that the level of representation and agitation is exercised on behalf of this now vulnerable set of workers.”