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Rivercruise after the corona crisis

17 May 2021

Holger Schatz of Nautilus International's Switzerland branch says that Covid-19 cannot be allowed to slow the upgrading of working conditions

The corona crisis has brought the European rivercruise industry to an almost complete standstill in the 2020 season and the first half of 2021. However, it will probably be able to get going again in the second half of this year, with transnational traffic on the Rhine or Danube.

The good prospects for the sector which were forecast before the crisis are still valid, and passenger numbers are expected to grow above 2019 levels.

Nevertheless, the long lockdown in the tourism and hospitality industry has caused enormous havoc, especially in the rivercruise sector with its high fixed running costs of idle ships. Many shipping companies and operators have run into economic difficulties, some have had to go into insolvency, and even in a new start-up the costs will be higher than pre-pandemic due to hygiene measures and reduced guest occupancy.

The lockdown was also a hard blow for the employees. Many did not receive short-time compensation and were laid off. Often, outstanding wages were not paid in full, and in the case of insolvencies sometimes not at all. For us as a union, labour law interventions for our members have tripled since spring 2020. So it is fair to say that the tone of some employers has become harsher during the crisis.

Not on the backs of workers

We have reason to be concerned that some employers will now try to fend off claims from employees in the new start post-Covid by referring to the difficult economic situation. The first signs of this have already appeared.

We and our partners within the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF), on the other hand, see all the more the need to invest in the quality of work. The work of the European social partners over many years to improve and regulate working conditions must not be stopped now.

There is enough money, the economic outlook is good and the industry can and must make every effort to sell the product 'rivercruise' at much more fair prices.

We will intensify our efforts and be more visible again from July 2021. We will talk to authorities, media and employers, but above all we will talk onboard and ashore directly to workers on the decks.

UK cruise reopening

The UK cruise industry is on the brink of returning to normal. On 23 April, the UK government compiled comprehensive guidance on the return of cruise for operators, passengers and management.

Domestic cruises, due to resume from 17 May, depart from and return to UK ports and are only permitted to carry residents from the UK, Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man and Ireland.

As previously reported in the Telegraph, cruise lines have been promising customers that staff and passengers aboard these cruises will be vaccinated. Nautilus has seen evidence that more than one company is making a serious attempt to ensure employees have received the Covid vaccine.

The Union has also been looking into the possibility that UK domestic cruises will be covered by new National Minimum Wage legislation as they sail to and from a UK port in much the same way as a domestic ferry. Although former UK maritime minister Kelly Tolhurst stated that they would be exempt in the short term, this is as yet untested.

Members concerned about any aspect of the return to work should contact their Nautilus industrial representative.


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