Union leaders return to the bargaining table Tuesday to push Walt Disney World for a raise, just as the theme park rebounds from one of its worst revenue losses ever during Hurricane Irma.
And while that’s not the employees’ problem, Disney is recovering from its own financial storm after closing its four parks for two days following the hurricane.
A union leader said he thinks Disney agreeing Friday to pay workers’ lost wages during the forced days off may affect the talks.
Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here Local 362 said he hoped the resolution was a sign that the Services Trade Council will be able to negotiate higher wages for cast members. The council represents 38,000 or more than half of WDW’s employees in six unions.
“It clearly shows Disney and the unions can work together to resolve their issues.” Clinton said.
The unions have asked for an accelerated hourly raise from $10 to $15.71, while the company offered a 25-cent hourly raise during the first sit down Aug. 28. Tuesday is their second meeting and they have until the end of October to reach an agreement.
Disney CEO Bob Iger told investors that the day and a half closure last October for Hurricane Matthew cost the company $40 million in revenue. And that didn’t include lost wages for employees, which sparked criticism for Disney after it refused to pay for days off and told workers they would have to use vacation time.
Dennis Speigel, founder of International Theme Park Services, said the hurricane pay was a good move by Disney and he believes the park’s recent revenue loss will not affect the wage talks.
“I don’t think it will have an impact on labor negotiations,” Speigel said. “Disney is looking out over the next five years for its wages and this short-term revenue loss should not be an issue.”
Disney officials refuse to discuss the wage negotiations, however they did release a statement last month that said their benefits were the reason people want to work for the company.
Andrea Finger, spokesperson for Walt Disney World, said the company’s benefits package keeps employees on the job. The average Disney workers stays 10 years and the company has not made any changes to its pension plan and covers 75 percent of an employee’s health insurance, she said.
“Our strong and comprehensive employment package inclusive of industry-leading wages, healthcare, paid vacation and sick time, overtime opportunities, on-site childcare along with multiple discount options and more, reflects our commitment to our workforce,” Finger said.
Jeremy Haicken, president of Unite Here Local 737, said it was premature to discuss negotiations until a settlement has been reached.