The fear ride in the entertainment park

Disney had to take a difficult slash to its employee strength  while laying off twenty eight thousands of them as Walt Disney World continues to fight with the hard hitting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the six-month closing of its urban themed gates.

Disney parks boss Josh D’Amaro declared the layoffs for the company’s theme parks, cruise lines, travel planning and consumer products division on Tuesday, Sept. 29 in his statement and a letter to cast members and media.

“Due to  the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on our business, as well as restricted capability thanks to physical distancing necessities and also due to the continued uncertainty concerning the length of the pandemic — exacerbated in California by the State’s temperament to elevate restrictions that might enable amusement park to open — we had to take a terribly tough call to start the method of reducing our men at our Park. Experiences and Products segment at all levels, having kept non-working Cast Members on furlough since April, while paying healthcare benefits.” D’Amaro said in a statement.

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure closed in mid-March and remain shuttered while they wait for new measures for safely reopening from the state. Disney theme parks in China, France, Japan and Florida have reopened with attendance capacity limits following extended coronavirus closures.

 “We initially hoped that this situation would be short-lived, and that we would recover quickly and return to normal,” D’Amaro said in a letter to employees. “Seven months later, we find that has not been the case. And, as a result, today we are now forced to reduce the size of our team across executive, salaried and hourly roles.”

“As difficult as this decision is today, we believe that the steps we are taking will enable us to emerge a more effective and efficient operation when we return to normal,” said D’Amaro. “As heart-breaking as it is to take this action, this is the only viable option we have in light of the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on our business.”

The fact that the parks and hotels remain closed — at a time when almost every other industry has reopened — only adds to the problem of the situation at the Disneyland resort. But the reality is that once they finally do reopen, given the limited guest capacity in the parks and changes to offerings, the workforce will likely not be needed in its same strength.

Without chalking out of new measures and a recovery path forward, it would be the next shoe to drop. Sadly, there are many other hotels and restaurants in a similar position. They have removed workers, even after doing the best they can under the circumstances, and now face difficult decisions about what to do next.

Disney will set up appointments with its affected employees who received reduced salary and daily wage contract basis workers in the next few days.

For the last many months, the management team has worked inexhaustibly to avoid having to separate anyone from the corporate. They have reduced expenses, suspended capital projects, furloughed our cast members while still paying benefits, and modified our operations to run as efficiently as possible, , however, they merely cannot keep totally staffed and have to be  operational at such restricted capability in order to survive.

Disney last week addressed California Governor Gavin Newsom to let Disneyland and Disney California Adventure reopen, while promising to adopt strict health guidelines to help protect guests from the coronavirus. For Disney, the effect has been particularly devastating because of the firm’s reliance on entertainment that is meant to bring people together, whether at theme parks or at cinemas. The layoffs at Disney are the latest example of how severely the pandemic has created havoc to the economy, particularly in key California industries such as tourism.

The situation is a wake-up call to mankind that how vulnerable we are. It is a good time to check our privileges and understand that we are at the rock bottom and it is only if we stand together can we see a flicker of hope!

Vidhi Bubna
Vidhi Bubna
Vidhi Bubna is a freelance journalist from Mumbai who covers international relations, defence, diplomacy and social issues. Her current focus is on India-China relations.