Carnival-Owned Lines Deny Threat to Fire and Rehire Hundreds of Crew

Could hundreds of ship officers and other employees be fired only to be rehired under new contracts if union negotiations fail?

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Two Carnival-owned cruise lines, P&O Cruises and Cunard Line, may be considering firing then rehiring more than 900 UK-based crew due to renegotiations of contract terms, including salary cuts.

The two parties, the union employees and the employment firm managing the contracts, seem at odds with what to call the situation, and the end result seems unclear. However, P&O Cruises and Cunard Line have denied any redundancies.

P&O Cruises and Cunard Line May Fire Hundreds

P&O Cruises and Cunard Line, both of which work through a Bermuda-based management company for employee contracts, may be firing as many as 919 maritime professionals in the next few weeks, including a number of ship officers, as union negotiations fail to reach a compromise.

The Guardian reported that Carnival UK, which owns both cruise lines are part of Carnival Corporation & plc, notified authorities of the potential action as union talks have begun. The union, Nautilus International, believes this notification shows a lack of faith for meaningful negotiation.

“We continue to urge Carnival UK to withdraw their threat of fire and rehire and engage in meaningful negotiations,” Garry Elliot, Senior National Organiser for Nautilus International, said.

“We also call on the UK government to learn the lessons from P&O Ferries and outlaw the coercive practice of fire and rehire. Employers cannot be allowed to treat their employees with contempt and force through fundamental changes to terms and conditions by playing with their employees’ livelihoods.”

P&O Ferries, which used a similar strategy in 2022, is not affiliated with P&O Cruises or Carnival UK. Carnival UK has denied this tactic, claiming it is “not making any redundancies.”

P&O Cruises and Cunard Line stated:There have been media reports today which are factually inaccurate and damaging. We are categorically not making any redundancies and we will not dismiss and re-engage staff. In fact we have significantly increased our headcount across our fleet.

In the workplace, a redundancy is a reasoning for firing an employee that has nothing to do with that employee’s performance. For example, if a poor economy forces a company to downsize, the eliminated positions would be considered redundancies.

The difficulty here is that the employees’ performance is not in question, but rather the terms of the contract renegotiations, which may include reduced salaries and a change in work contract lengths. If new terms for existing contracts cannot be reached, it may be possible that employees would be fired so they could then be rehired under new contracts with the new terms.

Carnival Corporation UK Office
Carnival Corporation UK Office (Photo Credit: P.Cartwright / Shutterstock)

“We are categorically not making any redundancies and we will not dismiss and re-engage staff,” Carnival UK stated. “This is an annual pay review process with our maritime officers onboard our ships which will ensure alignment. This will empower our staff, deliver the right teams across our fleet and attract and retain talent to work on our ships.”

Potentially impacted staff are on both P&O Cruises ships as well as Cunard Line ships, though the exact numbers and positions of crew members within each fleet who could be affected by these tactics have not been disclosed.

Would Cruises Be Affected?

It is possible that if these contract negotiations cannot be resolved, the cruise lines might be left struggling to fill positions, which could impact some cruise operations.

Because multiple vessels across both lines may be affected by such staffing changes, it is unlikely that any one ship would have the bulk of the impacted employees on its crew manifest.

Cunard and P&O Cruise Ships
Photo Credit: Peter Titmuss / Shutterstock

Even if one ship were more dramatically impacted, new crew members could be quickly hired to fill in gaps, or crew members could be shifted from other vessels to help balance staffing while the situation is resolved.

Cruise passengers are unlikely to see any day-to-day changes in their oceangoing vacations, though there may be fewer officers present for onboard events such as gala parties, cocktail meet-and-greets or other activities, or their favorite ship’s officers may be rotating to different vessels to fulfill the most critical positions.

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