Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line crew members who worked without pay during the pandemic may finally be compensated.
A federal judge in Miami approved a settlement agreement between the workers and the cruise line last week, paving the way for relief. After the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the cruise industry in mid-March, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line stopped paying ship employees and kept them on board for five months. Some continued to work as cooks and cleaners without wages. Crew who were stuck have since been repatriated.
The settlement provides $612,000 to 276 crew members and $262,500 to attorneys representing the crew.
A final approval meeting in front of U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom for the Southern District of Florida is scheduled for May.
Attorney for the crew members Michael Winkleman applauded the settlement.
“We are pleased that these crew members are getting the compensation they deserve,” he said in a statement. “This system of requiring people to work, without pay, is the equivalent of forced labor or peonage. We hope going forward the outcome of this lawsuit means that no other workers will face this circumstance going forward.”
A crew member who was stuck on board the Grand Celebration for three months doing housekeeping work without pay said he is happy about the settlement. He has struggled to take care of his family since he returned home to Indonesia in late June.
“I got family and I have sisters in school,” he said via text message. “When they ask me [for] money I don’t know how to say … I didn’t tell them first that I work for nothing.”
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line operates two-night cruises from West Palm Beach to Grand Bahama on its two ships. The company is majority-owned by the family of former Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Kevin Sheehan.
During the cruise shutdown, the company used threats of jail time and promises of a one-time $1,000 payment that never came to keep the crew working without wages, according to interviews with five crew members. The Herald obtained recordings of crew meetings with CEO Oneil Khosa, President Kevin Sheehan Jr. and hotel director Prem Kainikkara during which the payments were promised.
At a hearing in early November, Bloom said she was concerned that the settlement amount wasn’t enough. Attorney for the company Catherine MacIvor told the judge that the company was so cash strapped that bankruptcy was a “possibility.”
This week one of the company’s ships, Grand Celebration, arrived in India to be scrapped.