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Disney to lay off 28,000 theme park employees due to COVID pandemic

By Kara Santos Published Oct 01, 2020 12:04 am

Heartbreaking news from “the Happiest Place on Earth.” Walt Disney Co. (Disney) is reportedly laying off roughly 28,000 employees, mostly from its theme parks in the United States, as the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted its parks and resorts business.

According to a Reuters report, the job cuts will affect the Disney's Parks, Experiences and Products unit, with 67 percent of the employees affected being part-time workers.

Disney was forced to shut its theme parks around the world when COVID-19 began spreading earlier this year, dealing a huge blow to the company.

“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 Disney (DIS) Parks unit announced on Tuesday, Sept. 29 in a statement. The parks unit includes consumer products, cruise lines and other businesses.

D’Amaro cited the prolonged impact of COVID-19, the park’s limited capacity due to physical distancing requirements and uncertainty regarding the pandemic’s duration as the main reasons for the job cuts. He added that the decision was “exacerbated in California by the State’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen.”

The statement, which was also sent as a letter to cast members, explained that management had tried to avoid layoffs by cutting expenses, suspending projects and streamlining operations. According to D’Amaro, they kept non-working Cast Members on furlough since April, while paying healthcare benefits.

“However, we simply cannot responsibly stay fully staffed while operating at such limited capacity,” D’Amaro said. “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," he added.

D'Amaro further stressed that Disney's employees have always been their key to success, playing a valued and important role in delivering a world-class experience. He expressed hope that the company would be able to provide opportunities for them to return should the global health crisis situation improve.

According to a news report by CNN, Disneyland and California Adventure, the company's flagship resorts in California, have been closed since March. Disney World, the company's resort in Florida, closed its doors in March, but began a phased reopening in July. The resort reopened with safety protocols and health measures that included reduced capacity at its parks and requiring all employees and guests to wear masks.

Nearer the Philippines, Hong Kong Disneyland recently announced their reopening on Sept. 25, 2020 with a reduced capacity, enhanced health measures, and a new reservations system in place. They reopened briefly from Jun. 18 to Jul. 15, but had to close indefinitely due to a spike in coronavirus cases in the region.

(Images from Disney)