Walt Disney World plans to stop paying wages of 43,000 workers in about a week while allowing them to keep benefits for up to a year in what is the largest wave of leave since the theme park closed its doors in mid-March due to the new coronavirus spread.
Workers will be able to keep their medical, dental and life insurance benefits for the duration of the leave period, or up to one year. Seniority and wage rates will remain unchanged for workers who leave on April 19, according to a statement from the Service Trades Council, the coalition of unions representing workers at Disney World.
“The union agreement provides stronger protection and benefits for 43,000 unionized workers at Disney than for virtually all other workers on leave or laid off in the United States,” the union said in a statement to members.
About 200 workers will remain on the job to perform “essential tasks” during the closure and will be offered jobs based on seniority, the union said.
The agreement with the Service Trades Council marked the largest group of Disney World workers to enter into agreements with the company during the new coronavirus outbreak. With 77,000 workers, Disney World is the largest single site worker group in the country.
Disney World’s theme parks, entertainment district and hotels closed in mid-March, and Disney paid employees while they stay at home. This should end on April 19, Disney officials said, as they don’t know when the theme park station will reopen.
On Friday, unions representing security officers and workers involved in the facilities and operations reached agreements under similar conditions.
Earlier this week, Disney World and a union representing musicians performing at its theme parks reached a similar agreement.
Disney also said it would employ hourly executive, salaried and non-unionized employees whose jobs are not needed at the moment.
Disney’s city rivals Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando and their sister parks across the country also closed last month due to the coronavirus. SeaWorld said it has put 90% of its employees on leave.
Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood said this week that they would remain closed until May 31. Full-time employees will be paid 100% until April 19, but most workers’ pay and workload will be reduced to 80% thereafter, and Part-time hourly workers will be on leave at starting May 3, Universal said. The company said it would continue to provide benefits to employees who already had them.