Outsourcing at heart of Disney World labor talks

At Walt Disney World, where employees are called “cast members,” almost 500 outside contractors recently have joined the show, putting outsourcing front and center in labor talks that opened this week.

The Florida theme park's largest union contract, set to expire on April 28, is at stake.

“The whole issue of subcontracting bargaining unit jobs – leasing out work that is performed by Disney workers to third parties – in the last six months has become a very contentious issue,” said Morty Miller, president of the Service Trades Council, which represents 21,000 full-time Disney employees.

“We're starting to see a pattern,” Miller said. “And when the canary dies in the mine shaft, we want to fix the problem before all the miners die.”

Neither the union nor Disney management will reveal publicly, or to each other, the dollar value or other details of their initial bargaining positions until a meeting scheduled for March 6.

Both sides agree that wages, pensions, health care, scheduling and seniority also will be top items for negotiation.

On the outsourcing issue, Disney spokeswoman Kim Prunty said the company had used outside contractors since 1971, but offers displaced employees other jobs at comparable pay.

“Recent initiatives have impacted fewer than 600 jobs, which represents approximately 1 percent of our work force of nearly 60,000 cast members,” Prunty said. “We will continue to look for ways to staff our resort in a smart and efficient way and, on occasion, we will work with appropriate external partners when it makes sense to do so.”

Since 2005, while the current contract was in force, Miller said Disney had subcontracted or announced plans to subcontract 200 valet and baggage handler jobs in hotels, 235 custodial positions and 49 stagehand jobs in Orlando.

Earlier this month, the company announced plans to subcontract food service in the company cafeteria at Disneyland in California, which doesn't affect the Orlando union but raises a red flag, Miller said.

“It appears to be a signal of the direction Disney is going in and that makes work preservation a major issue for our members,” Miller said. “What good is it to have good jobs if they're subcontracted and disappear?”

The Service Trades Council represents food and beverage workers, staff in hotel services, bus, monorail and watercraft drivers, lifeguards, vacation planners, housekeepers and custodians, and people working in attractions, as stage techs and as characters.


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