Disney World to furlough 43,000 workers due to coronavirus

Disney World is the largest single-site group of workers in the US with 77,000 workers

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Walt Disney World plans to stop paying wages to 43,000 workers while allowing them to keep their benefits for up to a year in what is the largest wave of furloughs since the Florida theme park resort closed in response to the spread of the coronavirus.

Disney shuttered all of its theme parks in mid-March, including Paris and the US, joining Its parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong which closed in January as the outbreak raged in China.

On closing the parks, hotels and other entertainment spaces, Walt Disney World Florida committed to paying staff in full until April 19. As this date approached, a deal was struck with the Service Trades Council, the coalition of unions representing the Disney World workers, to halt paying wages but keep medical, dental and life insurance for those on furlough.

“The union agreement provides stronger protections and benefits for 43,000 union workers at Disney than virtually any other furloughed or laid-off workers in the United States,” the union said in a statement to members.  With 77,000 workers, Disney World is the largest single-site group of workers in the nation.

About 200 workers will remain on the job performing “essential duties” during the closure, and they will be offered positions based on seniority, the union said.

The agreement with the Service Trades Council marked the largest group of workers at Disney World to come to terms on furloughs with the company during the new coronavirus outbreak. Last week, unions representing security guards and workers involved in facilities and operations and a union representing musicians who perform at the group’s theme parks reached a similar agreement.


Some of Disney World Florida employees approaching the furlough date appealed to the state to fix its benefits registration system and unemployment website which has been experiencing issues due to a huge increase in users.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis said over 640,000 unemployment claims have been made in the state since March 15.

Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy said the state’s programme “has now collapsed at the precise time it is needed most, causing incalculable economic and emotional harm to Floridians whose lives have been upended by the Covid-19 crisis.”

The state currently has 19337 cases of the virus.

Disney also said it would furlough executive, salaried and hourly nonunion employees whose jobs aren’t necessary at this time.

“This agreement provides an easier return to work when our community recovers from the impact of Covid-19,” Disney officials said in a statement about Saturday’s agreement. “We are grateful to have worked together in good faith to help our cast members navigate these unprecedented times.”

Disney’s cross-town rivals, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando, and their sister parks across the country, also closed their gates last month because of the coronavirus. SeaWorld said it had furloughed 90 per cent of its workers.

Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood said this week that they would stay closed through May 31. Full-time employees will be paid at 100 per cent until April 19, but pay and workload for most workers will be reduced to 80 per cent after that, and part-time hourly workers will be furloughed beginning May 3, Universal said. The company said it would continue to provide benefits for employees who already had them.