Disney World union workers reject contract offer, demand 'meaningful wage increase'
Matt Hollis, president of the Service Trades Council Union, said that the Disney World management has agreed to return to negotiations
Workers unions at Disney World have rejected a proposal from the company that was giving them a raise of at least $1 an hour annually over five years. The proposal by Disney was put to vote by 32,000 employees of six different unions. As per president of the Service Trades Council Union (a consortium of the six unions), Matt Hollis, 96 percent of the votes cast went against the offer. The six unions are demanding an immediate $3 an hour raise, lifting Disney World’s minimum wage to $18 from $15. They further want a $1 an hour raise in every subsequent year, as per a report in The New York Times. Employees allege that the minimum wage increase offered by Disney is not in line with the spiralling costs of living and inflation.
Matt Hollis told CNN Business, “I think the workers at Disney World have sent a loud message that $1 is not enough. The company needs to provide a meaningful wage increase that addresses the economic issues that workers are facing.” Hollis has said that the management has agreed to return to negotiations. However, no date has been fixed for the talks. Negotiations over a new union contract have been going on since August last year.
The previous three-year contract got over in October and Disney had requested a five-year one, which was not approved. Since then, the entertainment park company has been operating under an extension that forbids unionised workers from striking. It is not known when the extension will end. Unionised workers still need to vote to approve a strike.
Andrea Finger, a spokesperson for Disney, said that the company is disappointed that the raises offered in the proposal have now been delayed.
Parent company Walt Disney needs to keep Disney World fully operational to make up for losses in its recently-launched Disney+ streaming division. The company is also under massive debt, amounting to $45 billion, due to its acquisition of 20th Century Fox in 2019 as well as losses incurred during the coronavirus pandemic. The pressure from activist investor Nelson Peltz, who wants a seat on the board, over profits and dividends, has also forced the company to try and keep its labour costs under control. However, news of some ousted executives, like Bob Chapek, receiving millions in severance packages has contributed to the anger of Disney World’s workforce.
The move of unions rejecting Disney’s pay increase offer comes at a time when labour unions in the United States are increasingly fighting back against corporate giants. Last month, in a milestone for the tech industry, workers at Apple’s first unionised retail store began collectively negotiating their contracts with the management.
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