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Disney to cut 28,000 jobs in one of biggest layoffs of Covid-19 era

Belt-tightening move hitting its theme parks, cruise ships and retail businesses; includes execs and salaried staff

Although Disney's resorts in other areas have reopened - including Florida, in July - it still has not received clearance to restart operations at its two theme parks in California.

Los Angeles

THE Walt Disney Co is slashing 28,000 workers in its slumping US resort business, marking one of the deepest workforce reductions of the Covid-19 era.

The belt-tightening move affects the company's theme parks, cruise ships and retail businesses, Disney said on Tuesday. That includes executives and salaried employees, although 67 per cent of those being terminated are part-time workers.

Disney is offering benefits to the workers being cut, including 90 days of job-placement services.

It is the latest sign that travel and other experiences will be slow to recover from the pandemic.

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Disney joins airlines and other travel-reliant businesses in scaling back their workforces. American Airlines has warned that it could furlough 19,000 employees, while United Airlines is planning to cut about 12,000.

Disney's move also spotlights its troubles with California, which has been slower than other areas to lift restrictions on theme parks.

The company's domestic parks employed more than 100,000 before the pandemic, but that does not include the cruise lines and other divisions.

Its workforce totalled 223,000 at the end of the last fiscal year, which ended in September 2019.

"As heartbreaking as it is to take this action, this is the only feasible option we have in light of the prolonged impact of Covid-19 on our business," Josh D'Amaro, chairman of the parks division, said in a memo to workers.

The Covid-19 crisis closed Disney parks around the world. Although the resorts in other areas have reopened - including Florida, in July - Disney still has not received clearance to restart operations at its two theme parks in California.

Mr D'Amaro said Disney had tried to hold out as long as possible before making the cuts permanent, but after seven months with some attractions still closed, Disney could not wait any longer.

Even those that have reopened, such as the four theme parks in Florida, are operating at much lower capacity due to social-distancing requirements.

The number of visitors, particularly those who arrive via air travel, has been disappointing, the company has said.

Disney also has been adopting more technology in response to the pandemic, allowing guests to get around the parks with fewer human interactions.

The changes include online restaurant menus and mobile-pay systems. Some of those new approaches require fewer employees.

"We have cut expenses, suspended capital projects, furloughed our cast members while still paying benefits, and modified our operations to run as efficiently as possible," Mr D'Amaro said.

"However, we simply cannot responsibly stay fully staffed while operating at such limited capacity."

The situation has been exacerbated in California by the state's unwillingness to lift its restrictions, Mr D'Amaro said.

Nineteen California legislators sent state governor Gavin Newsom a letter on Monday urging him to reopen the state's theme park industry.

"Your administration has been rightfully reliant on data and science and, to date, the data and science do not point to theme parks as sources of transmission," they wrote. BLOOMBERG

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