It's not exactly a secret that Disney has been struggling through the pandemic due to the fact that so much of the company's business requires the use of theme parks and movie theaters. While the division that handles theme parks has now finally seen most of them reopened, those parks are still only seeing, by design, a fraction of normal business, and one major location, Disneyland Resort remains closed, with the exception of Downtown Disney, with no announcement regarding reopening. Now, Disney has announced that due to the financial struggle, the Disney division of, Parks, Experiences, and Products is laying off 28,000 cast members.
In a letter to employees that was shared with CinemaBlend, Chairman Josh D'Amaro did what he could to soften the blow of the layoff that will affect approximately 28,000 cast members, two-thirds of which were part-time. The letter reads in part...
As you can imagine, a decision of this magnitude is not easy. For the last several months, our management team has worked tirelessly to avoid having to separate anyone from the company. We’ve cut expenses, suspended capital projects, furloughed our cast members while still paying benefits, and modified our operations to run as efficiently as possible, however, we simply cannot responsibly stay fully staffed while operating at such limited capacity.
The layoffs are coming at all levels of the company, and so, while 67% of the layoffs may be impacting part-time works, which we can assume means much smaller roles, some salaried roles and executive-level positions are also impacted. Since this division of Disney handles more than just theme parks, but also cruises and other vacation options, the layoffs will certainly be covering more than just the parks, but between the fact that Disneyland is closed and Walt Disney World is working on a fraction of its normal capacity, the theme parks are certainly going to be a large chunk of these layoffs, with the Disney Cruise Line being another likely target as the ships still aren't sailing.
In his statement, Josh D'Amaro specifically cited the layoffs were "exacerbated in California by the State’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen." The relationship between the theme park and the state has been heated of late as Disney has repeatedly asked to be allowed to reopen and while the state has continually promised that announcements are coming soon, we're still waiting.
And this might not be the end of the road for layoffs either. The letter to cast members also promises that discussions with the various unions that include Disney cast members will be forthcoming, one assumes Disney will be looking for concessions to help share the financial burden.
Disney's major theme park competition, Universal Studios, has already undergone at least one round of layoffs.
It's terrible to have to cover this sort of thing. Disney cast members are part of the reason that Disney theme parks are so much fun. Many of those that work there do so because Disney magic means just as much to them as it does the guests. At the end of his statement, Josh D'Amaro says that he hopes to be able to provide opportunities in the future for those let go to return. Of course, right now it's anybody's guess when Disney Parks will have recovered enough for something like that to be possible.