Celebrity Cruises has launched a probe into claims by an undercover TV reporter that crew had to accept pay calculated to be less than half the UK minimum wage.

Channel 4’s Dispatches programme last night showed secretly-filmed footage from onboard Celebrity Eclipse, which claimed to show staff working long hours for low pay.

The cruise line responded by pledging to investigate all the allegations made and take “swift action” if necessary.

The 30-minute documentary showed reporter Tazeen Ahmed filming on board the ship as a passenger on a cruise from Southampton while her colleague Paul Mills got a job as an assistant waiter. 

The programme claimed this saw him earn £2.24 an hour, less than half the UK minimum wage.

The footage showed crew members complaining of long days with little breaks and no days off, while others said they had to use their wages to pay other people to help them finish their duties.

In its response, the US cruise company said: “Celebrity Cruises is taking immediate steps to investigate all of the allegations made by the undercover reporter to determine their basis and validity.

“If we discover that anyone within the company, or at the hiring and placement agencies we work with, violated our procedures and requirements, or the European and international labour regulations to which we adhere to, then we will take swift and corrective actions.

“Our company stands behind the pay, benefits and working conditions we offer our employees.

“As a business, Celebrity Cruises creates thousands of global job opportunities each year, giving employees on shore and on our ships the chance to significantly increase their earnings potential and provide financial support to their families.”

Ahead of the documentary being screened UK and Ireland associate vice president and general manager Jo Rzymowska said the company expected a “biased and unbalanced” programme about labour and wage issues in the cruise industry with Celebrity Eclipse as the show’s prime example.