Thursday, May 04, 2006

Carnival settles OT suit

Cruise line agrees to pay $6.25 million

Carnival Cruise Lines will pay $6.25 million to thousands of current and former crew members who alleged in federal lawsuits they were not paid proper amounts of overtime, the workers' attorney said.

If approved by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke, the settlement would mean payouts of between $100 and $150 for nine named lawsuit plaintiffs and other amounts for as many as 39,500 people who worked on Carnival ships beginning in November 2001.

Carnival currently operates three ships from Port Canaveral -- the Fantasy, the Glory and the Sensation, which began service here last month.

During the port's last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, the Fantasy and the Glory carried a total of 404,656 passengers from Port Canaveral.

Julio Ayala, an attorney with Miami-based Crew Member Advocacy Center, which represented the crew members, said the settlement includes the ships based at Port Canaveral.
He said all crew members will be notified of the settlement. Those who no longer are working for Carnival will be notified at their last known address.

"They're very hardworking people who come from all over the world," said Tucker Ronzetti, another attorney representing the crew members. "From their perspective, it's a significant amount of money."

The Miami-based cruise line will not admit wrongdoing under the settlement, but will establish a grievance and arbitration process for pay disputes, Ronzetti said.

Officials at Carnival, the world's largest cruise line and a subsidiary of Carnival Corp., declined comment Wednesday because the case still is pending.

The lawsuits were filed in March and October by Carnival workers, who said the cruise line failed to pay them for work in excess of their regular schedules, which are often 70-hour workweeks.

Carnival and other cruise lines typically don't follow U.S. wage and labor laws because their ships carry foreign flags.

One of the lawsuits was initially dismissed, but the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was considering whether it could continue when the settlement was reached.

The second lawsuit was on hold pending the outcome of that appeal.

A similar lawsuit is pending in federal court in Miami against Princess Cruises, a California-based subsidiary of Carnival.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. settled an overtime pay dispute in 2002 in New York.

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