Walt Disney World, Florida has announced to furlough 43,000 union workers as the theme parks remain shut since mid-March due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The furloughs, set to begin on 19 April, were part of an agreement between Disney World and the Service Trades Council Union, a collection of six unions representing the 43,000 workers at the theme park resort in Florida.
Commenting on the layoff, Unite Here Local 362 president Eric Clinton said in a Facebook live, “This is a decision that the union doesn’t like. However, it’s within the company’s right to lay off and furlough employees in this situation.”
In a statement released on Sunday, 12 April, Disney confirmed to have reached an agreement to maintain health insurance and other benefits during the furlough. Disney will pay 100 per cent of health insurance costs for workers currently covered for the duration of the furlough up to 12 months, according to the Services Trade Council Union.
Clinton further noted that a furlough generally has an end date but in this case it does not because of the uncertainties of the crisis happening due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Also, the workers will not lose their seniority or have their pay reduced, he said on Sunday. The workers earn $13 to $20 an hour.
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the Service Trades Council Union that will maintain members’ health insurance benefits coverage, educational support and additional employee assistance programs during a temporary furlough effective 19 April. This agreement provides an easier return to work when our community recovers from the impact of COVID-19. We are grateful to have worked together in good faith to help our Cast Members navigate these unprecedented times,” Walt Disney Resort informed.
A small group of less than 200 workers will remain on the job during the closure, the union said. Walt Disney World, which includes Animal Kingdom, the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot theme parks, employs about 77,000 people, according to the union. Disney World draws an average of more than 52 million visitors a year.
The union represents employees as theme park attendants, custodians, vacation planners, housekeepers, bus drivers, monorail workers and others. They will be immediately eligible to enroll in state unemployment benefits.
This news comes a few weeks after Disney announced plans to furlough some of its non-union workers at its U.S.-based theme parks and stop collecting payments for its annual park passes. The entire Disney Parks, Experiences and Products segment has around 177,000 cast members, which includes people who work in its theme parks and at retail locations like the Disney Store.
Disney’s theme parks across the globe including Disney World in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California, have been closed indefinitely since large gatherings have been restricted. Parks in Asia have been closed since February and parks in the U.S. and Paris have been closed since March.
Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products are a massive part of the company’s business. Last year, the segment accounted for 37 per cent of the company’s $69.6 billion in total revenue.