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.