On Thursday, Disney announced that the initial 28,000 theme park employee firings previously unveiled in September would increase by 4,000 due to early 2021 monetary projections in it’s theme park division.
According to a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing on Thanksgiving, 32,000 employees will be terminated in the first half of 2021 in Disney’s theme park division. An additional 37,000 employees will be furloughed, building on the original announcement made by the company earlier this month. The company is also looking at cuts elsewhere, including further theme park cuts due to it’s theme parks in California and Florida continued to be either closed or open in a limited capacity, as well as from it’s film division, as most movie theaters around the world still have limited reopenings.
The firings, furloughs, and cuts, largely focused in California, have almost entirely been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and continued COVID-19 restrictions nationwide. The continued closure of all California parks since March and the drastically reduced reopening of parks in Florida, all under the “Park, Experiences and Products” departments banner, were specifically named in the report as the biggest area of loss for Disney.
“During fiscal 2020 and continuing into fiscal 2021, the world has been, and continues to be, impacted by COVID-19. COVID-19 and measures to prevent its spread impacted our segments in a number of ways, most significantly at Parks, Experiences and Products where our theme parks were closed or operating at significantly reduced capacity for a significant portion of the year, cruise ship sailings and guided tours were suspended since late in the second quarter and retail stores were closed for a significant portion of the year,” noted the SEC document. “Due to the current climate, including COVID-19 impacts, and changing environment in which we are operating, the company has generated efficiencies in its staffing, including limiting hiring to critical business roles, furloughs and reductions-in-force.”
32,000 to be let go between Florida and California parks
Industry experts have said that this is an even grimmer statistic than previously thought, and that, despite the continued development of vaccines, there is no real theme park and movie theater reopening timeframe in sight. In California, much of the blame has fallen on Governor Gavin Newsom, who has continued to refuse to reopen parks due to COVID-19 fears despite tens of thousands of people losing their job. Politically, disaffected Disney workers, angry at Newsom for not protecting their jobs, largely switched to the GOP during the election earlier this month, becoming one of the deciding factors in many races where Republicans won, including a few Congressional races.
“That’s why they fired even more people this early,” explained Ohio-based theme park industry analyst Roger Green. “They’re doing projections and they’re seeing that hard hit California and harder hit Florida won’t reopen anytime soon. Florida is at risk of having Disney World being shut down and California is refusing to reopen.
“COVID is nobodies fault, but it’s kind of hard to tell that to all of the employees who are facing job loss, especially the extra 4,000, mostly in California most likely, who were given the axe on Thanksgiving no less and are now on borrowed time until March of next year.
“And look who is fired. Most Disney employees, or cast members as they call them, are lower income. So they effectively just took away a hard to come-by job for many.
“The obvious solution is to gradually reopen while meeting all COVID-19 health guidelines, but honestly, seeing Florida and California dragging their feet so much on this, it likely won’t improve at this point until at least the summer. You’ve got to feel for these 32,000 people losing their jobs at such a vulnerable time.”
All announced Disney park firings will occur through the first quarter of 2021.