About 43,000 unionized Walt Disney World employees will be furloughed starting April 19 because of the coronavirus crisis.
The Service Trades Council Union, a coalition of six unions representing Disney World employees, made the announcement Saturday during a Facebook Live briefing.
“This is a decision that the union doesn’t like, however, it’s within the company’s right to lay off and furlough employees in this situation,” said Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here! Local 362, which represents attractions, custodial and vacation planning cast members at Disney World.
Clinton said all affected employees will be eligible to immediately enroll in unemployment benefits in Florida, and those with insurance will be able to keep their medical, dental and life insurance benefits for up to a year.
“Disney will pay 100% of all insurance costs,” he explained. “There will be no cost to any employee who’s on furlough for use of their medical insurance and the continued coverage of it.” The company will also maintain its Disney Aspire educational assistance program.
Just under 200 union workers considered essential will remain on the job, including custodial, culinary, housekeeping and lake patrol positions, the union said.
While it’s unclear how long the furloughs will last, all employees will be able to return to their jobs once the crisis ends.
“Everyone’s job, seniority, wage rate and benefits are guaranteed through the furlough, even if you stay on furlough after Disney reopens. Seniority continues indefinitely beyond 12 months,” the union said.
Disney confirmed details of the furloughs in a statement to Deadline.
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the Service Trades Council Union that will maintain members’ health insurance benefits coverage, educational support and additional employee assistance programs during a temporary furlough effective April 19,” the statement said. “This agreement provides an easier return to work when our community recovers from the impact of COVID-19. We are grateful to have worked together in good faith to help our Cast Members navigate these unprecedented times.”
The company shuttered the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Disneyland and California Adventure in Anaheim, and Disneyland Paris Resort on March 14 as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened. At the time, the closures were expected to last only a couple of weeks.
On March 27, Disney extended the shutdown of its U.S. theme parks in Anaheim and Orlando, saying the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort would remain closed until further notice. It also said it would “extend paying hourly parks and resorts cast members through April 18.”