P&O Cruise's decision to withhold passenger tips unless 'performance targets' are met has not gone down well with their mainly Asian crew. The majority of these are Indians working as stewards and in restaurants, according to British newspaper reports. Unsurprisingly, P&O rubbishes the criticism, claiming instead that the new regime is aimed to "make crew more responsive" and offer protection to them since passengers- often paying thousands of dollars for the cruise- are not tipping as much as they used to.
David Dingle - CEO of Carnival UK that is in charge of P&O Cruises- has rolled out a programme that may severely affect the take home pay of most of its Indian and Filipino crew, many of whom are working 11 hours a day for as little as 75p an hour. In addition to making tips electronic, P&O will not pay bonuses if passenger feedback does not exceed internal targets, "some of which stand at 96%". Stewards getting an approval rating of below 92% will lose their bonuses- 15% of their basic salary. P&O has also reportedly told the crew that the scheme "is dependent on the passengers paying their auto gratuities".
The Guardian reports that passengers on the P&O Oriana ship said members of the mainly Indian crew "seemed upset by the deal". Passenger Rob Bygrave added that it was an "absolute scandal" and that one crewmember told him "grown men were in tears at a meeting where they were notified of the new arrangements".
Dingle contradicted this, saying that the crew is "much happier" since they have some protection now. "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 on to the street. It clearly is of value to these people."
Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the British Trades Union Congress- that has 58 affiliated unions representing over 6 million workers- has condemned the P&O move. He said, "Holidaymakers will be horrified to learn that some of the seafarers on their cruise ships are paid so little. It is 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."
Not that the cruise industry is without other public relations issues. P&O is part of the Carnival Corporation of the Costa Concordia fame. As if that were not enough, a subsidiary of Carnival- Princess Cruises- has been under fire recently for allegedly leaving two fishermen to die.