Fears are mounting over the safety of 1040 crew members – many of them from the Philippines – on board the Ruby Princess cruise ship as another union today raised the alarm about Covid-19 coronavirus infection risks.
“There are now 18 deaths and around 700 coronavirus cases associated with the cruise ship Ruby Princess,” said Peter Murphy, spokesperson for the Philippines Australia Union Link (PAUL).
“Quarantine on board the ship does not work, and the 1040 crew on board are in grave danger,” he said in a statement about the crisis in Port Kembla, NSW.
“The crew must be taken off the ship now, all tested and placed in isolation or hospital, and repatriated to their home countries when safe, at the expense of their employer, Carnival Corporation.”
Murphy was speaking for PAUL, which has been operating for 36 years to strengthen ties between the trade unions of Australia and the Philippines.
“We believe the biggest single group [of the crew on board] is from the Philippines, and we are supporting all of the crew to be able to enjoy their basic rights to a safe workplace, and repatriation to their homes by air.
“The International Transport Workers Federation, the South Coast Labour Council and the Maritime Union of Australia have forced more testing of the sickest crew members over Easter, and the result is shocking – 97 more workers were tested and 57 were positive cases.
‘Other crew with symptoms’
“Add the previous nine confirmed cases and there are 66 cases out of 106 tested. There are at least another 100 crew members showing symptoms of respiratory illness.
“The NSW government should change its plan that all these workers should stay on the ship and that it should sail this week, because this is certain to lead to more coronavirus cases on board, serious illness and some deaths. The Carnival Corporation must be made to fulfil its duty of care.
“We are appalled at the images of police officers boarding the ship in full body protective suits to carry out their investigation, while the crew have no protective gear at all. Aspen Medical was put in charge of the vessel last week, and we understand that the maximum medical treatment provided has been taking of temperatures.”
NSW Health must take direct control of the situation on the Ruby Princess to ensure that these workers were “treated like human beings”, Murphy said.
“Hundreds of thousands of Australians have enjoyed cruises with Carnival Corporation over the years, and it is these workers who have made those cruises enjoyable.
“Right now they are being treated like disposables who have no rights at all, who have to be kept out of sight and pushed off as soon as possible.
“This is not our Australia and we call for this situation to be put right now, before it is too late.”