Disney has been desperate to hire recently, even going as far as advertising openings on a giant LED screen outside of their casting offices but could that be about to change? During the fourth quarter earnings call today. Disney’s Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy hinted that layoffs could be coming.
The comments came during the question and answer portion of the call when a caller asked about the potential for cutting overhead costs.
Mccarthy’s answer seemed directed specifically at front-of-house theme park cast members. McCarthy said, “We do feel that we have — you know, once again, hearkening back to the opportunity we took during the pandemic, we did permanently remove a significant amount of operating expense at the parks. And that better positions us right now as we go into an uncertain economic environment.” The “operating expense” they removed? Cast Members. Disney Parks saw some of the biggest layoffs during the pandemic. While many were furloughed, many others were simply laid off and never brought back.
Layoffs were particularly bad for food service workers. When the Parks reopened, they did so with a much lower front-of-house food staff than their pre-pandemic levels. This was due to the mobile ordering requirement and a lack of need for cashiers and people to work at the front counters. We were told this was a “temporary” change while we tried to avoid contact to reduce the spread of COVID. Judging by the news from the earnings call, it seems like it will be a permanent change.
McCarthy said, “We also have technology advancements, and this is more on the expense side. That provides us opportunities for cost flexibility. So, we have things like mobile ordering, contactless check-in. So, those kinds of things give us levers on the expense side.” What she meant was, they are using technology to avoid having to pay Cast Members to do those jobs.
Disney looking for "meaningful efficiencies," CFO Christine McCarthy warns. She says she's actively examining the company's cost base.
A lot of Disney's peers are cutting jobs right now. McCarthy doesn't specifically mention job cuts, but the language she used often means that
— Alex Sherman (@sherman4949) November 8, 2022
Alex Sherman, a financial analyst at CNBC, tweeted Tuesday that the language used by Christine McCarthy is often of impending layoffs. “CFO -Speak,” if you will. He went on to say that many of Disney’s “peers” are cutting costs and that while layoffs were not specifically mentioned, the wording very clearly hinted at it. As we described above, we certainly agree that going forward “employee reduction” will be a tactic Disney uses to generate higher profits. We predict we will start seeing more and more automation and technology taking the place of Cast Members. They’ll claim it is for a “better guest experience,” but in the end, it will be to avoid paying wages. So much for Cast Members being “the secret sauce,” eh?