The 8th Panel of the Superior Labor Court (TST, the highest labor court) held, in a lawsuit filed by a room attendant against Royal Caribbean Cruzeiros, that the law applicable to the labor contracts of the employees working aboard foreign flagged ships is that of the flag country (labor suit 1001602-25.2016.5.02.0080, in a judgment published on June 24, 2022,).
The plaintiff was hired in Brazil, but worked aboard cruise ships with Bahamian flag during nine years in Brazilian and international routes, and was dismissed in 2016. She filed a labor suit before the Brazilan Courts seeking payment of severance and other rights under the Brazilian employment law (which is seemed by many to be very generous to employees), arguing that the employment contract was governed by Brazilian law.
The 8th Panel of the TST applied the MLC – Maritime Labour Convetion 2006 (the International Labor Organization’s Convention 186), which took effect in 2021. The referred convention, enacted by the International Labor Organization, has the purpose of creating a set of rules, applicable internationally, to seafarers’ working and living conditions, to assure special protections for workers aboard ships, given the global nature of navigation activity.
One of the rules of Convention 186 is the application of “Flag Legislation (Flag State)”, according to which the labor contracts of seafarers are subject to the law of the place where this ship is registered, irrespective of the nationality of the employee or place of hiring. This was the interpretation of the TST in ruling out application of Brazil’s Consolidated Labor Law (CLT) to the case in question.
According to the reporting judge assigned to the case, Agra Belmote, since the ship where the plaintiff worked is registered in the Bahamans, the law of that country must be applied, not the Brazilian law.
Further to that, according to the reporting judge, this decision brings more uniformity to labor disputes, since it is common for vessels, such as cruise ships, to have crew members of several nationalities engaged in the same activities.
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