Fiasco in France: Inspectors find Cruise Operator none compliant with the labour law

Aug 31, 2019

Crew members on ocean and river cruise ships work long hours. Rather than working standard five-day weeks, cruise-ship employees work seven days a week 10 to 14 hours a day, for the duration of their entire contracts. Day off does not exist when working on cruise ships. Usually, employees get lunch off or dinner off, and even with this so-called offs they work 8 hours. In some cases, crew members complain that even when they work overtime this is not recorded on their timecards and they don’t get extra overtime wages.  Following this subject, we received an anonymous tip of an inspection carried on a river ship which didn’t follow the labor laws.

Officers of the labour inspection in France conducted an investigation on a river cruise ship after receiving a tip that the labor law and working conditions of the crew were none compliant with the French law. According to our source, the employees were working under Swiss contracts which allows them to work up to 70 hours a week while the ship was sailing in France.

The inspection was conducted in July when six inspectors and four translators boarded the ship and conducted interview with all crew members. After questioning the crew members, officers found numerous violations including exceeding the maximum amount of working hours and none compliance with minimum wages requirements. Just to put into perspective under Swiss contracts crew working on river ships can earn from 700 to 1000 euros per month plus tips which average 1400 euros gross salary per month. However if the ship sails to France the company needs to comply with French Law where the minimum salary is 1200 euros for 35 working hours per week with two days off. 

Several days later the port authorities informed the captain to turn back the ship from the regular voyage and return to the homeport. Upon arrival, another inspection was conducted and crew were not allowed to perform their work duties. In the mid of the voyage the ship was full with guests and there was no one to provide service. Instead, they were dining outside in the local restaurants paid by the cruise line.

The ship was in port for 7 more days which resulted in cancelation of the following voyage and the guests were offered cruises on other ships. The company was given two choices by the inspectors, comply with the French law and pay the crew according to their working hours or the ship will not continue to sail. Shortly after the crew received their payment and now they are allowed to work for 35 to 46 hours per week with two days off. After exceeding more than 35 hours a week every hour is paid extra, but it cannot exceed 45 hours per week. It all seems great but with limited crew (average number of crew on a river ships is 70), it is impossible to cover all operations within these working hours.

One more thing which was mentioned by our source is that the gratuities crew was receiving before is now canceled on their salary, instead they are added to their regular payment which means they are making the same money as before.

Some crew members resigned, others fired, and many were transferred on other ships including the Hotel Director. The company is putting pressure on the crew who decided to stay and wants to transfer them all. Why the cruise operator wants to replace all the crew? Is it because they are trying to cover up this scandal, or suspects is only a speculative matter?

There are many river cruise operators sailing the French rivers and all must comply with their law. But it looks like that some are trying to bend the rules and follow them only on paper.