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Cruise ship contract workers hoping for solution after ship leaves to help FEMA

Posted at 9:45 PM, Sep 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-22 07:06:39-04

Now to an example of how Hurricane Irma is still hurting families, days after the storm has passed.

The storm has wiped out much of the Caribbean cruise vacations for the next several months and Hurricane Maria is now wreaking havoc.

To help in the aftermath, FEMA is actually using a popular local cruise ship as a supply line and “hotel” of sorts for relief workers in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Grand Celebration set sail on Wednesday evening to St. Thomas with a number of crew to work over the next three months.

 

Click here to read our previous story.

While the ship’s remaining crew is being compensated, a group of about 70 contract workers are now temporarily without a job and wondering what to do next.

“They’re leaving 70 to 100 plus people out in the wind and they don’t care. We just had a hurricane, too," said Dennis Bell, who works security at the port.

Bell is one of several workers from the Grand Celebration cruise line and the Port of Palm Beach terminal that are desperate for help.

“Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we have total respect for the ownership of what they’re doing here, offering their ship to first responders," said Phil Moretti, who works with the pier staff.

Hundreds of direct employees for the cruise line are getting paid vacation time until December. Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, which runs the Grand Celebration, told WPTV they can’t legally negotiate with the contract workers because of labor agreements with their own temp company. They have no control over workers that are contracted out by other agencies.

“As hourly contracted employees, we know don’t have rights as far as we’re not entitled to anything," said Moretti. "We just felt like you know, we do a good job for them and I think in the end here, we’re just starting to feel left out."

PeopleReady -- the temp job agency that  oversees most of the workers -- is offering a $500 dollar and a .50 cent raise from $9.00 an hour to $9.50 an hour, but those benefits won't be reaped until the workers come back in December.

“And that’s wonderful. Thank you! But we have to eat tomorrow," said Moretti.

PeopleReady told the workers that there are temporary jobs available, but most are hard labor and many of the contract workers looking for temporary employment are elderly.

“There’s a lot of people -- women, elderly -- that cannot do the daily jobs that the company we work for will offer us," said Bell. “These kind of temporary work companies do not deal with a mass layoff like this. It’s out of their ballpark. They have no Human Resource person there."

As they work to apply for unemployment assistance, some of these workers say they are living paycheck to paycheck, with time running out.

"How are they going to pay the rent? I’m very disappointed and upset," said Patricia Islas, who works as a check-in agent. “Maybe I can apply for food stamps and go from there. Because I really don’t want to end up on the streets, homeless.”

WPTV spoke with several FEMA representatives by phone to see what options are available for the contract workers. We were told those employees will need to apply for both Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) through the state as well as regular unemployment assistance.

The same is true for anyone who may have lost their job or wages because of Hurricane Irma.

Visit www.FloridaJobs.org and click on the Hurricane Irma banner at the top of the page to apply. You can also call (800) 385-3920.

Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity says the deadline to file an application for disaster unemployment assistance is Oct. 16.

Applicants can qualify for aid if they meet the following criteria:

  • Worked or were self-employed, or were scheduled to begin work or self-employment;
  • Are not able to work or perform services because of physical damage or destruction to their place of employment as result of the disaster;
  • Can establish that the work or self-employment was their principal source of income;
  • Cannot perform work or self-employment because of an injury or direct result of the disaster; or
  • Became the breadwinner or major supporter of a household because of the death of the head of household.