No industry is without its dark underbelly and no workspace without its grievances. As the industry expands exponentially, there is a huge demand for people to fill cruise ship jobs. And with it comes the undeniable existence of friction between staff and managers, company and guest.
Cruise ship jobs involve a great deal of compromise, particularly on the family front and on work hours. Many low-rated and untrustworthy companies have been known to take advantage of their staff. In other instances, staff reputation has been put on the line over customer accusations of misconduct. Even in situations where the accusations are false, the company could suffer a loss if word got out, and follows the adage – “The customer is right”.
Over time, cruise companies have developed a system to handle crew issues. Typically, the contract lays down the law that staff must follow and offers a grievance redressal system in case of any problems.
The key is to read all contracts and guidelines before joining and listening carefully during orientation so you are aware of procedures to handle any situation involving colleagues, superiors or guests while on board. Here’s how you can get your problems solved when on board:
Grievances with colleagues:
Most cruise ship jobs entitle you to a work environment free of harassment or discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental abilities and age. These include verbal or physical misconduct, derogatory words or gestures, and distributing offensive printed or electronic material. Companies also protect staff witnesses who may try to object to these occurrences.
If, however, you do come across a situation where you face such harassment or discrimination, the first step is to make the other person – no matter what his or her rank in the work hierarchy – that you are uncomfortable with the behaviour or language they use.
Bringing the offensive situation to their notice could help stem the behaviour at the beginning and remove the need for further action if it was simply a misunderstanding or a result of insensitivity.
This does not mean you should completely dismiss the situation. Take note of it, and maintain a log. If it occurs again, you can use this information to contact the grievance redressal unit or the HR department of your company. Make the report to your immediate supervisor, manager and head of department.
You can do this verbally, but if you feel more comfortable or your complaints have not been addressed, make a formal complaint in writing to the crew office.
Always remember that most cruise ship companies have a hotline to deal with cases such as these, where grievances are not redressed on board to the complainant’s satisfaction.
Grievances with guests:
This is a tricky area for most cruise ship companies as they prefer to maintain their reputation. For this, all major ships insist that no intimate relations between guests and crew are allowed. Passengers cannot be invited to officer or crew accommodation and vice versa. Crew may be in passenger rooms only on official work – for example, housekeeping or room service.
However, in the event that a crew member is at the receiving end of harassment on the part of a passenger, it is his or her right to take the situation to their immediate superior.
Always remember that you should try remember as many details as possible about the incident. It is better to write them down as soon as the incident has taken place – names and contact details of any witnesses, time and place, exact nature of the incident and anything around you that may have contributed to the incident occurring.
This will help the company make a stronger case for you when dealing with guests.
Grievances with the company:
If you are unfortunate to have an unresolved issue that continues despite going to the top, being well prepared will ensure you get justice, no matter how big the company.
For this, always note down details of the incident. Make a copy of all your written reports that you are filing with your managers and store them in a safe place. You could also take photographs of the area where the incident occurred. Small details that may have been overlooked can come up on closer inspection at a later date.
If there was a physical assault involved, see the doctor and get a copy of the medical record. Do not sign anything other than your written incident report as there may be clauses that you could overlook or that may not be in your best interest.
Speak to an experienced maritime lawyer who can handle such cases where laws differ depending on the country the ship is registered in.