Disney Parks Announces 28,000 Layoffs, Citing Covid-19 Closures and Low Attendance

Disney Parks Announces 28,000 Layoffs, Citing Covid-19 Closures and Low Attendance
Masked Disney World employees welcoming guests back to the park on July 11. (Photo: Matt Stroshane/Walt Disney World Resort, Getty Images)

The novel coronavirus pandemic has continued to surge throughout the United States, which means Florida’s Disney World has run at reduced capacity and California’s Disneyland isn’t even open yet — despite continued efforts to reopen. It might be the safest thing for park employees, and people in general, but Disney has announced that 28,000 workers will lose their jobs as a result.

In a staff memo to employees, which was first revealed by CNBC and has since been made public, Walt Disney’s parks chief Josh D’Amaro said 28,000 resort employees for the United States parks will be laid off — about two-thirds of whom are part-time workers. D’Amaro cited “the prolonged impact of covid-19 on our business,” which has remained a tough issue. According to the Orlando Sentinel, attendance at Disney theme parks around the world is down 80 per cent from last year. Part of this is because of limited capacity and social distancing requirements, but it’s also because a lot of people don’t feel safe going to a theme park during a global pandemic.

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However, one can’t ignore the fact that just last month, thousands of executives at the Walt Disney Company and Fox Corporation had their temporary salary reductions restored to pre-covid levels. Previously, Disney executives were seeing anywhere from 20-30% in salary reduction, with Disney CEP Bob Chapek taking a 50% reduction and executive chairman Bob Iger forgoing 100% of his salary. The timing for this, especially considering these new layoffs, feels unfortunate.

Here is D’Amaro’s statement:

In light of the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on our business, including limited capacity due to physical distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic – exacerbated in California by the State’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen – 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, having kept non-working Cast Members on furlough since April, while paying healthcare benefits. Approximately 28,000 domestic employees will be affected, of which about 67% are part-time. We are talking with impacted employees as well as to the unions on next steps for union-represented Cast Members.

Over the past several months, we’ve been forced to make a number of necessary adjustments to our business, and as difficult as this decision is today, we believe that the steps we are taking will enable us to emerge a more effective and efficient operation when we return to normal. Our Cast Members have always been key to our success, playing a valued and important role in delivering a world-class experience, and we look forward to providing opportunities where we can for them to return.

Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is currently open, as is Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California. However, despite recent pressure from a group of state senators and assemblymembers to reopen, as well as D’Amaro on behalf of Disney Parks, Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure remain closed.