The Walt Disney Co.’s division that includes theme parks like Walt Disney World plans to lay off roughly 28,000 workers permanently.
In a memo sent to employees on Tuesday, Josh D’Amaro, head of parks at Disney, detailed several “difficult decisions” the company has had to make in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We initially hoped that this situation would be short-lived, and that we would recover quickly and return to normal,” he wrote. “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.”
Around 67% of the 28,000 laid off workers were part-time employees, according to D’Amaro on Tuesday. The company declined to break down the layoffs by individual park locations.
While Disney’s theme parks in Florida, Paris, Shanghai, Japan and Hong Kong have been able to reopen with limited capacity, both California Adventure and Disneyland have remained closed in Anaheim, California.
Shares of the company fell less than 2% after the closing bell on Tuesday.
Disney has been losing money since the outbreak began. In the second quarter, the company reported a loss of $1 billion in operating income due to the closures of its parks, hotels and cruise lines. In the third quarter, the company reported a steeper loss of $3.5 billion.
D’Amaro wrote: “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.”
Disney will schedule appointments with “affected salaried and non-union hourly employees” in the next few days and will start conversations about next steps with unions on Tuesday, he said in the letter. He added the company hopes to bring back the laid off employees “when we can.”
Disney is not the only major theme park operator to announce major staffing reductions. SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. and Comcast Corp’s Universal Orlando Resort have had to make similar decisions.
U.S. Rep. Val Demings (D-Orlando) called the Disney layoffs “devastating” in a Sept. 29 social media post.
“Like so many others over recent months, these layoffs will be devastating for countless people. It’s up to all of us to step up and help in every way we can,” she wrote. “These layoffs show yet again how desperately … assistance is needed by American households and businesses.”