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Disney furloughs 43,000 workers while parks are closed for coronavirus

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Walt Disney Co. is furloughing 43,000 workers at Walt Disney World following the park's closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a union representing workers. The employees won't be paid while they're not working, but will continue with their health insurance plans for up to 12 months. 

The decision comes a month after Disney said it would close its theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, and Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, as well as the Disneyland Paris Resort. Disney didn't immediately return a request for comment. 

The furloughs for Disney World employees will begin on April 19, with the union noting in a statement that workers' job, seniority, wage rate and benefits are guaranteed through the furlough. With the pandemic bringing business to a standstill, millions of U.S. workers are being furloughed, which is a mandatory, but temporary, unpaid leave

"Disney will pay 100% of your insurance" during the furlough, the Service Trades Council Union said in its statement. "Insurance means all insurance benefits: medical, dental, life, etc. with no exceptions."

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In the statement, the union noted that workers are trying to file for unemployment but struggling to get through to Florida's unemployment system. "Workers have tried for weeks to apply and receive money. Despite Gov. DeSantis' promises to fix the system, the online application is terrible," it noted. 

The union said it plans to begin "a week of action" to bring attention to the problems filing for unemployment in the state.

Separately, Disney chairman Bob Iger said that the spread of coronavirus in China didn't lead to his abrupt exit as CEO of the company. Iger, who steered the company's absorption of Star Wars, Marvel and Fox's entertainment businesses and the launch of a Netflix challenger, stepped down from his CEO role in February. Disney Co. named as his replacement Bob Chapek, most recently chairman of Disney's parks, experiences and products business.

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