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Disney lays off 28,000 at theme parks – cuts at cruise division too

Image: Disney©

PortandTerminal.com, September 30, 2020

Disney’s park division is laying off 28,000 employees in California and Florida in the wake of the pandemic.

MIAMI – Walt Disney has announced it will lay off 28,000 employees, mostly at its US theme parks although Disney Cruise Line and Disney’s retail stores will also be affected. It is unclear how many of the job losses will come from the cruise division at this time.

To say that the company’s theme parks and cruise line have taken a major hit from the pandemic is an understatement.

Disney cited the parks’ limited visitor capacity and uncertainty about how long the coronavirus pandemic would last as reasons for the layoffs.

Cruising out of US ports remains banned through a No Sail Order from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) until at least October 31. Three of the cruise lines four ships remain parked off the coast of France.

Theme parks take the worst hit

Disney shut all its parks earlier this year as the virus spread, but only Disneyland in California remains closed.

Josh D'Amaro, Chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products
Josh D’Amaro, Chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products

“We have made the very difficult decision to begin the process of reducing our workforce at our Parks, Experiences and Products segment at all levels,” Josh D’Amaro, chairman of the parks unit, said in a statement.

About 67 percent of the layoffs will involve part-time jobs that pay by the hour. However, executives and salaried workers will also be among those laid off. Disney’s theme parks in California and Florida employed roughly 110,000 people before the pandemic. The job cuts will come from both resorts.

Disneyland in California has remained closed because Gov. Gavin Newsom has not allowed theme parks in the state to restart operations. About 32,000 people work at the Disneyland complex and the majority are unionized and have been on furlough since April.

Mr. D’Amaro said in a statement that the layoffs were “exacerbated in California by the state’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen.” Disney held a virtual news conference on Sept. 22 in an attempt to pressure Mr. Newsom to lift restrictions. “The longer we wait, the more devastation to the Orange County and Anaheim communities,” Mr. D’Amaro said then. “It’s time.”

Families have not felt safe flying to Florida for vacation, according to travel agents

In Florida, where government officials have been much less restrictive, Walt Disney World reopened on a limited basis in mid-July. About 20,000 union workers, or roughly half of the resort’s unionized employees, were called back for the reopening. The remainder have stayed on furlough. (Disney World employed about 77,000 people in total before the pandemic.)

But attendance at Disney World has been weaker than Disney expected. In particular, families have not felt safe flying to Florida for vacation, according to travel agents. Families are also delaying visits because they don’t want to pay for Disney excursions when the experience remains limited — no fireworks, fewer dining options, no hugs from Mickey Mouse, shorter park hours — and they have to wear face masks.

Disney also has parks in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Paris, which are not affected by the announcement.

With reporting by the New York Times and BBC International

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