As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic brings the entertainment industry to a complete standstill, the Walt Disney Company will begin furloughing employees “whose jobs aren’t necessary at this time” this month. The affected staffers will still receive “full health care benefits, plus the cost of employee and company premiums will be paid by Disney,” the company said.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Walt Disney Company will begin furloughing staffers “whose jobs aren’t necessary at this time” starting April 19. The furloughed staffers will still receive full healthcare benefits and company premiums from Disney, as the company struggles to deal with the impact of the park and store closures and delayed film releases amid the coronavirus pandemic.
While numerous divisions are expected to be hit, Workers United Local 50 president Christopher Duarte expects the furlough to especially impact non-union hourly employees. Duarte represents food and drink cast members at Disneyland and estimates that around 10,000 workers fall under the non-union label at the Anaheim park. But Duarte told THR that Disneyland executives are in talks with the union on how to proceed with the furlough, since union workers are protected from furloughs.
“We expect something is coming for the unions next,” Duarte said in a letter on union members.
Disney has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Its theme parks have been shuttered around the world, its cruise line has been suspended, and most of its major releases this year have been indefinitely delayed. The suspension of live sporting events has basically shut down the Disney-owned ESPN. Shares of Disney have plummeted more than 30% year to date, according to CNN.
But as far as billion-dollar multimedia conglomerates, Disney is faring better during the coronavirus crisis than others, especially in the company’s promise to continue giving full healthcare and premium benefits to furloughed employees. The House of Mouse is also donating medical supplies to hospitals, while former and current CEOs Bob Iger and Bob Chapek are foregoing all or part of their salaries in a show of solidarity.
Read Disney’s full statement below.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact on our world with untold suffering and loss, and has required all of us to make sacrifices. Over the last few weeks, mandatory decrees from government officials have shut down a majority of our businesses. Disney employees have received full pay and benefits during this time, and we’ve committed to paying them through April 18, for a total of five additional weeks of compensation.
However, with no clear indication of when we can restart our businesses, we’re forced to make the difficult decision to take the next step and furlough employees whose jobs aren’t necessary at this time. The furlough process will begin on April 19, and all impacted workers will remain Disney employees through the duration of the furlough period. They will receive full healthcare benefits, plus the cost of employee and company premiums will be paid by Disney, and those enrolled in Disney Aspire will have continued access to the education program.
Additionally, employees with available paid time off can elect to use some or all of it at the start of the furlough period and, once furloughed, they are eligible to receive an extra $600 per week in federal compensation through the $2 trillion economic stimulus bill, as well as state unemployment insurance.
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