If you think that the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t trickled down through many facets of everyday life–including theme park operations and staffing concerns–you might want to think again.
Shortly after the virus was first discovered among people who were falling ill in China, Disney Parks in Asia closed their gates to Guests. Shanghai Disneyland announced its closure, effective January 25, 2020, “in response to the prevention and control of the disease outbreak and in order to ensure the health and safety of [the park’s] Guests and Cast Members.”
Hong Kong Disneyland Resort closed its gates on January 26, Tokyo Disneyland closed on March 1 in response to the growing spread of the virus. Disneyland Paris closed on March 12, 2020, and Disney’s U. S. parks followed suit only days later.
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Initially, the spread of COVID-19 seemed to call for very temporary closures. In the cases of Disneyland Paris and Disneyland Resort in California, the closures lasted longer than anyone had imagined. The Paris park reopened, only to be closed again in the fall of 2020.
And then came the layoffs.
As of October 3, 2020, approximately 37,000 Cast Members–who were not expected to be laid off–were on furlough. And then in late September 2020, Disney announced plans for 28,000 layoffs that would take place in early 2021. Josh D’Amaro, President of Disney Parks, Products and Experiences, said the decision was a difficult one.
“As you can imagine, a decision of this magnitude is not easy,” D’Amaro wrote in a memo to Cast Members. “For the last several months, our management team has worked tirelessly to avoid having to separate anyone from the company. We’ve cut expenses, suspended capital projects, furloughed our cast members while still paying benefits, and modified our operations to run as efficiently as possible, however, we simply cannot responsibly stay fully staffed while operating at such limited capacity.”
Of those 28,000 layoffs, 67% were part-time employees, per D’Amaro. But more layoffs followed. In November, Disney added several thousand more layoffs to the initial 28,000.
Cast Members are back to work now, but there is growing unrest over pay that some Cast Members say is not “a living wage.” Some Cast Members at Disneyland Resort in California were so determined in their cause, that they filed suit against Disney, alleging that Disney wasn’t holding up its end of a deal made with the City of Anaheim that would require Disney to pay a minimum wage of $15 per hour by 2019, and then to increase that pay by at least $1 per hour to $18 per hour by the year 2022.
But the judge presiding over the case sided with Disney.
Protests and demonstrations regarding Cast Member pay, benefits and even working conditions have been taking place at multiple Disney Parks. Some at Disneyland Paris went on strike in October outside Disney’s Newport Bay Club Resort Hotel. A protest at Disneyland in California was related to allegedly less than desirable working conditions and understaffing.
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And just today, reports have surfaced that demonstrations taking place inside the park at Disneyland Paris have once again disrupted operations. Today’s protests have warranted to closure of the Castle hub at the park, according to DLP Report (@DLPReport) on Twitter.
The center of the hub is closed due to a demonstration by Cast Member union CGT: pic.twitter.com/h81PU7RnRG
— DLP Report (@DLPReport) November 9, 2021
Today’s demonstration is by Cast Members who are part of the union known as CGT. Cast Members at Disney Parks are represented by multiple unions. Disneyland Paris security personnel have been trying their best to keep anyone from photographing the event, per @DLPReport.
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Disney security trying their hardest to avoid people taking pictures but I mean.. the Castle is right behind. pic.twitter.com/TOoEyG7bju
— DLP Report (@DLPReport) November 9, 2021
It’s not clear exactly what specific effects these protests will have on operations at the park today. DisneyDining will be following this story and other protests and strikes by Cast Members and keep you updated as well.