The Walt Disney Co. said it will lay off 28,000in the company's California and Florida theme parks as it moves to recover from a sharp financial blow caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Disney World and Anaheim's Disneyland closed in March as COVID-19 cases soared nationwide and state officials in California and Florida ordered businesses to temporarily shutter. Disney lost an estimated $500 million for every two weeks the attractions were shuttered, chief financial officer Christine McCarthy said in May. Disney World reopened to limited capacity in July, but Disneyland remains closed under California state orders.
Disney Parks chairman Josh D'Amaro said a closed Disneyland is partly to blame for impending layoffs. In a statement, D'Amaro said that roughly two-thirds of the workers who will lose their jobs work part-time.
"Over the past several months, we've been forced to make a number of necessary adjustments to our business," he said. "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."
In a letter to employees, D'Amaro tried to paint the layoffs as unavoidable. Shares of Disney have fallen 13% this year.
"COVID has really thrown a wrench into a lot of our businesses.... [P]arks had to close, cruise ships stopped sailing, productions ceased," Disney Chief Financial Officer Christine Mary McCarthy said in a September 10 presentation at a Bank of America event. "Live sports weren't continuing, and so there were no live sports on ESPN. So we really did have quite an impact and felt it very, very early on in the COVID world that we're living in now."
The pandemic, and forced social distancing, has certainly been a big drain on Disney's park operations. But the company and its executives have inflicted some of their own wounds. To help limit the number of parkgoers, Disney rolled out an online reservation portal called Disney Park Pass in June. Visitors on the first day and some time slots were sold out quickly.
When visiting Disney, all guests and staff members must have their temperature checked. Guests must also wear face masks except when eating. Some play areas at Disney World have remained closed and others attractions, including restaurants and stores, have reopened at reduced capacity.
Disney officials said the company would provide severance packages for many laid-off employees, but not all, and also offer other services to help workers with job placement.