Thousands of Disney Parks cast members are losing their jobs following park shutdowns due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
While Florida's Walt Disney World reopened in July, Disneyland Resort and Disney California Adventure Park in California remain closed — which Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D'Amaro said was a factor in the ″very difficult decision″ to reduce the parks' ″workforce″ in a statement Tuesday.
D'Amaro said that about 28,000 U.S. employees — of which 67 percent are part-time — will be affected by the layoffs.
″We are talking with impacted employees as well as to the unions on next steps for union-represented Cast Members,″ D'Amaro said in his statement, obtained by PEOPLE.
″Over the past several months, we’ve been forced to make a number of necessary adjustments to our business, and 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″ his statement continued. ″Our Cast Members have always been key to our success, playing a valued and important role in delivering a world-class experience, and we look forward to providing opportunities where we can for them to return."
In a letter to Disney Parks employees on Tuesday, D'Amaro expressed that the company did not expect the parks' shutdown to last as long as it has.
″We initially hoped that this situation would be short-lived, and that we would recover quickly and return to normal. Seven months later, we find that has not been the case,″ he said in the letter. ″And, as a result, today we are now forced to reduce the size of our team across executive, salaried, and hourly roles.″
D'Amaro said that the layoffs are ″heartbreaking″ but the ″only feasible option″ due to the ″prolonged impact of COVID-19 on our business, including limited capacity due to physical distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic."
The executive added that when the pandemic is over, Disney Parks hopes to be able to welcome back former cast members and employees.
While Disney had planned to reopen Disneyland and California Adventure in July, they were forced to delay the opening when state and local governments did not grant approval. Downtown Disney shops and restaurants were able to reopen earlier this summer, albeit with outdoor seating only.
Last week, D'Amaro called on California officials to allow the parks in Anaheim to reopen.
″To our California government officials, particularly at the state level, I encourage you to treat theme parks like you would other sectors and help us reopen," D'Amaro said during a webcast, Deadline reported. ″We need guidelines that are fair and equitable so we can better understand our future and chart a path toward reopening."
During the call, D'Amaro seemed to warn of the looming layoffs.
″The longer we wait, the more devastating the impact will be to the Orange County and Anaheim communities and to the tens of thousands of people who rely on us for employment,″ he said, according to Deadline's report. ″With the right guidelines and our years of operations experience, I am confident that we can restart and get people back to work.″
″As you can see from this discussion today … we’re ready,″ D'Amaro added. ″And more importantly, it’s time.″
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said on September 16 that an announcement regarding theme park reopenings would be coming ″soon," Fox 11 reported.
Disney Parks in Orlando, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Paris have reopened.
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