Keen for the weekend? Can you wait 224 days?

Recruitment is a tough job. This is about 100 times tougher.

I went on a cruise.

Not my normal ‘thing’, but it was pretty good. Saw lots of cool places and ate too much. The usual, I suppose.

I also met some of the most fascinating, hard working and impressive people I have ever met. And none of them were passengers!

You see I am fascinated by the whole world of work, not just recruitment. I am interested in labour, and fairness, and work ethic.

And so I found myself chatting with the crew on this ship. Not the professional mariners or the ‘higher-ups’ so much, but the cleaning staff, the bar staff, the waiters, the room-attendants and the butlers. An incredibly industrious bunch I quickly noticed, and cheerful almost to a fault.

And what I learned about their work contracts will make you choke on your coffee and have you lurching in shock. Seriously.

  • For a start there are different contracts for workers of Asian origin vs the rest of the world. Asians get an 8-month contract. The rest get six months. Why?  No one knew, or would tell anyway. Let’s just speculate.
  • Each working day is 11 hours, including one hour for lunch.
  • And now the big one. The contract stipulates, that they work every day of that eight (or six) months. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Now I checked and doubled-checked that claim. With at least 8 or 9 different staff members, at different times, in different sections. And every one of them told me the same story.

You work eleven hours a day. You work every day. No weekend. No leave. No day off. For 32 weeks! Straight.

I couldn’t believe it. “But surely when the ship is in port you get a break?”, I questioned. No, that is the busiest time apparently. Cleaning and preparing for the next group of passengers. The ship leaves the day it arrives.

This is not a political piece, but I was left to ponder, how could this even be legal?

Of course I subtly asked why they would accept such terms. The money is good of course (relative to where most of these people come from, which was often the Philippines or India, but I met people from Europe and Ukraine and even the US doing the same jobs).

In one particular case a woman from the Philippines working as a waitress, with her husband on the same ship working as a butler, and two kids at home being cared for by her Mum said, “The work is hard, sure, and missing my kids even more. But in two contracts my husband and I can afford a house, which we would never, ever otherwise achieve“.

And so I left my cruise, fatter and more relaxed. But also reflecting on all the internet memes celebrating ‘hump-day’ and moaning about Monday, and celebrating Friday, because “now we get a break from our exhausting jobs”.

Recruiters are particularly fond of these posts, and they saturate Instagram, and increasingly, LinkedIn.

And I thought of these guys whose ‘Friday’ comes after  224 days of constant, continuous, back-breaking work.

Recruitment is a tough job, no doubt. But every time I find myself about to complain I will think of Jhovi, and Nolan, and Linda and all the rest, ploughing through their 224 day working-week.

Sometimes we need to be a little more grateful for what we have.

All of us.


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About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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17 Responses to Recruitment is a tough job. This is about 100 times tougher.

  1. VB November 15, 2016 at 11:12 am #

    Great post Greg – yep, puts reality back into our “stressful” lives….

  2. KC November 15, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

    I live in Bali and meet many locals desperate for a job on the cruise boats. The only way they can apply for the role is via an agency. The agency charges them the equivalent of the first 8 mth contract, it’s paid upfront (many take out bank loans) with no guarantee of getting the job and most wait more than a year to get a start. What a rort!!

    • Eva Grabner November 15, 2016 at 4:36 pm #

      Those agents are scammers then as it’s illegal to charge for services. Contact the cruise companies directly and they will advise you of that.

  3. Gordon Alderson November 15, 2016 at 1:22 pm #

    While seafarers on cruise ships sure do work long and hard, those working on tankers and cargo ships have it even tougher. Sometimes they cannot even go ashore for as long as 6 months because the ports they visit disallow shore leave. Crews number around 25 per ship and so the isolation from a wide range of people can be stultifying.
    While recruiters can become “peopled-out” tanker and cargo seafarers would relish our “problems”.

  4. Shirley Farrell November 15, 2016 at 1:25 pm #

    Goes to show what desperation to get ahead and the desire to pull oneself out of poverty and create opportunity will drive people to do. We are very lucky to work and live in Australia and our lifestyle must be the envy of millions.

    It’s an absolute travesty to hear of those conditions and almost incomprehensible. At the risk of quoting an old cliche, having an “attitude of gratitude” springs to mind from this story. We should never take for granted what we have!

  5. Janette Size November 15, 2016 at 1:54 pm #

    We certainly do need to be more grateful for what we have Greg. I couldn’t believe the working structure either, and do you know they don’t get paid for their sick days. If they happen to get sick on the boat, they are not allowed to work, don’t get paid, which is an incentive to get better very quickly. Could you imagine if that happened in any first world country???? Mind you only full time and permanent part time get paid sick days. The staff on the cruise are very hard working.

    • Eva Grabner November 15, 2016 at 4:35 pm #

      Yes they do and they receive the best medical care anywhere. Where are you hearing these stories???

  6. Alan Allebone November 15, 2016 at 2:19 pm #

    Just like the real olden days of the slaves rowing the galleys. Today the modern ships still have “Slave labour” Time it stopped.
    But unfortunately whilst people do these jobs and take on the responsibilities it will not change.
    I would assume there is a union for these people?

  7. Eva Grabner November 15, 2016 at 4:34 pm #

    I would love to know what company you cruised with Rick as I worked on ships for 10 years and yes, you work every day but you get time off during the day. On some days it’s only 1 hour and on others, up to 4 but it all depends on your work duties and roster. Contracts are difference based on position, not nationality. For Filippino crew, however, they had to legally send money home to families (that is a Filippino government thing, not cruise ships).

    Working hours can vary (I once worked 36 hours straight!!) but it’s just what you do and yes, there are many people away from their families which is hard and heartbreaking but you earn pretty good money, you don’t pay rent, electricity, etc and you get to travel. Not only that, you meet some of the most wonderful people in the world who are friends for life. I don’t think there is a country in the world where I don’t know someone!

    It’s extremely hard work, there were tears of exhaustion and tears of laughter over the years but it’s an experience like no other and one I would never trade!

    Glad you enjoyed and hope to see you in Feb on the Explorer? 🙂

    • Eva Grabner November 16, 2016 at 11:43 am #

      Greg! So sorry. Where did I get Rick from?? 😉

      • Greg Savage November 16, 2016 at 12:00 pm #

        Yes, I did wonder about that Eva! 🙂

  8. Chris Sale November 15, 2016 at 7:13 pm #

    Yes recruiters can moan a bit can’t they: I guess all people enjoy a bit of grumpiness (except those who like to tell people how happy they are which is much more irritating).

    The only point I think worth making is that working 224 of 365 days equates to 4.2 days of a 7 day week. I stayed at a guest house at the weekend in the Lake District where they had been working 7 days a week most of the year.

    I am very grateful for my relatively easy life and it’s worth bearing in mind we are surrounded by people working very long hours for low pay close to home.

  9. Kurt Gillam November 17, 2016 at 12:41 am #

    Nice post Greg.

  10. Business Mentor Adelaide December 28, 2016 at 9:38 am #

    WOW – that is some working life . . . .makes my day look pretty easy.

  11. Belinda January 21, 2017 at 4:51 am #

    I did it for 3 months as a waiter and cried every day !! I crawled back to South Africa – literally , I actually hurt my back so badly I was sent home ! Those guys and girls have my respect !!

  12. Andrew Yarwood February 18, 2017 at 12:49 am #

    Very thought provoking piece, Greg. Puts the tribulations of our daily endeavours into a stark light.

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