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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 9, 2004

Cruise line treats workers fairly

By Robert M. Kritzman

In her "After Deadline" column of April 25, Advertiser Editor Saundra Keyes wrote: "It's been a dreadful week for The Advertiser's credibility." Because of very poor reporting by the Honolulu Advertiser, it wasn't a very good week for Norwegian Cruise Line either.

The front-page story that prompted Keyes' mea culpa inaccurately portrayed NCL America as unfair to our employees and has certainly damaged our company.

In her mea culpa, Keyes attempted to portray the problem as limited largely to the dishonesty of a single source who claimed he quit over a pay dispute when, in fact, he was terminated for a serious violation of NCL policy.

The problems with the reporting on this story run much deeper than a single impeachable source. They demonstrate a dangerous — even reckless — lack of thoroughness and desire to report negative content and controversy regardless of accuracy or fairness.

We have felt for several months now that The Advertiser's reporting on NCL America has been consistently negative. The editors were made aware of our concerns prior to the publishing of this article and they declined our request for a meeting, suggesting we write a letter. Our attempt to raise the warning flag was ignored.

We then asked for detailed information about the complaints, so we could provide detailed responses. As Keyes admitted, those details were not shared with us. Had they been, The Advertiser would have been given signed documents proving that the source around whom they built their first five paragraphs did not work 16.5 hours a day and clean 30 cabin bathrooms alone, as she claimed.

Timesheets completed and signed by this source as well as payroll records and work assignments show that in six days she worked 47.5 hours and was paid for those hours plus an additional 12 training hours and that she cleaned 27 cabins together with two additional employees.

No employees on the payroll records provided to The Advertiser worked anything close to 16.5 hours per day, and it was explained to The Advertiser that these claims defied logic. Despite this written and other proof to the contrary, The Advertiser did not believe a correction relating to these claims was justified.

Stripped of this drama, would these tales have warranted front-page placement in the Sunday paper? I doubt it.

If the standard applied by The Advertiser to establish a basis for a correction were applied in our criminal courts, would anyone be convicted without a confession? I doubt it.

During a two-hour meeting to discuss these, and other, inaccuracies, Keyes astonished us by insisting that this story characterized NCL positively — as a company that is taking on the challenge of starting a U.S.-flagged operation.

In fact, every single person who has commented to us about the story saw it as extremely negative to NCL. The article also took quotes out of context and contained other inaccuracies too numerous to list within the space allowed.

On a more positive note, we are focused on the job ahead of us. Norwegian Cruise Line and NCL America are investing $1 billion in ships to become Hawai'i's interisland cruise line and the only U.S.-flagged cruise operation in the country.

We are proud of our efforts to revive U.S.-flag cruising and we are excited about the upcoming launch of America's first modern cruise ship in 50 years.

When fully implemented, our planned three-ship, U.S.-flag fleet will bring a $500 million-per-year economic boost to Hawai'i, over $250 million in wages and salaries per year, and 10,000 jobs, making NCL America one of the top five employers in the state.

We are making a significant effort to contribute to our community through charitable and other efforts.

We believe we are best served by hiring in Hawai'i, providing extensive training to our employees, and creating a positive work environment. We consider our employees our greatest resource and intend to treat them accordingly.

Looking forward, NCL America will continue to build our presence here — to contribute to our community, to provide honest jobs for Hawai'i workers, to become Hawai'i's kama'aina cruise line.

Robert Kritzman is executive vice president and managing director of NCL America, the U.S.-flag operation of Norwegian Cruise Line.