Seafarers recently left no doubt about their view of a new contract between the union and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL).
Members unanimously ratified a nine-year agreement described by several as “groundbreaking” for cruise ships, due to how closely its wages and many other economic elements come to mirroring the SIU standard freightship agreement. Voting took place Sept. 24 in Portland, Oregon, aboard the SIU-crewed Pride of America – the only U.S.-flag deep-sea cruise ship. “This is an outstanding contract, as reflected by the overwhelming support of the membership,” said SIU Executive Vice President Augie Tellez. “It’s a fair and beneficial agreement for both sides. I extend my sincere compliments to everyone involved in the negotiations.”
Bosun Maximo Aguiran stated, “The SIU-NCL agreement of enhanced economic terms has exceeded our expectations – better benefits, good wages, and more money in our pockets. Thank you, SIU.”
Engine Storekeeper Bryan Wells said, “The wage increase gives newer members the opportunity to not have to worry so much about trying to earn a living wage, especially while trying to get their time in for seniority. I hope this will help remove any stigma about this vessel and instead show the opportunity it can be for those members who are trying to get a start in our industry. It’s definitely a nice starting point that we can hopefully continue to improve upon in the future.”
Assistant Engine Storekeeper Tanya Awong also is pleased with the contract.
“Thank you to SIU and its officials for the wage increase and enhanced economic terms,” she said. “I’m very thankful for what we got. It has been a long road with NCL, especially as I started with SEATU (an SIU-affiliated union), then crossed over into SIU. I’ve seen many contract changes over the years. I believe by far this is the greatest, and I look forward to my continued employment with NCL.”
Negotiations for enhancements to the contract began in late 2019, and were put on hold for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the SIU and NCL agreed to a contract extension earlier this year and bargaining resumed, with the union and company negotiating committees meeting numerous times (multiple times per week in some cases).
“Both committees worked tirelessly, and that included nights, weekends and holidays,” SIU Assistant Vice President Bryan Powell said. “The aim was to achieve an agreement that was more in line with the industry standard agreements, and I believe we achieved that with most of the major economic elements. Frankly, the package far exceeds what has been in effect historically in this market. I’m happy all the hard work paid off and we were able to deliver such a robust package for the membership!”
SIU Vice President Great Lakes Tom Orzechowski stated, “The contract reflects continued stability and continued partnership. I think everyone’s focus now is to get this market back into play, relative to the challenges of the pandemic.”
The contract includes a completely new wage schedule with increased rates effective Oct. 1, 2021, providing average boosts between two and four percent to base wage rates (depending on rating) and an adjusted overtime rate schedule equivalent to a 30 percent increase. The agreement also includes across-the-board increases of three percent for all wages effective April 1, 2022 and each anniversary thereafter.
The Seafarers Vacation Plan benefit will increase by one day each year until 2027 from the current level of nine days of additional base pay for each 30 days worked. As of April 1, 2027, the benefit will be 15 for 30.
Additionally, the Seafarers Money Purchase Pension Plan benefit will increase from the current three percent of base wages on the following schedule: April 1, 2022, four percent of all base wages; April 1, 2024, five percent of all base wages.
The pact also maintains medical and pension benefits at the respective highest levels.
Other features of the new agreement include increases to safety shoes reimbursement; boosts to the level of maintenance and cure payments; and enhanced payments for loss of personal property.
Principle negotiators for the union and company bargaining teams, respectively, were Powell and NCL Senior Vice President of Shipboard Talent Management Christian R. Weindorf.
Lynn White, executive vice president and chief talent officer at NCL, provided the following statement: “Norwegian Cruise Line continually reviews our compensation and benefits structure, allowing us a competitive edge in attracting and retaining the best talent in each area of our operation. An extension of this commitment is our partnership with the SIU. By working together over many months of bargaining, we’ve agreed on an outstanding compensation package, including an increased pay structure and ongoing benefit enhancements over the life of the agreement. We are very pleased that the SIU membership ratified it unanimously, as we believe it will greatly benefit our existing shipboard SIU members and strengthen our recruitment efforts in the future. We thank the SIU for its continued commitment and partnership with NCL, and our existing shipboard SIU members for their support, hard work and dedication, especially during these challenging times.”