Disney World Offers A Union Contract Extension

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Disney World has offered its largest union group an early contract extension, in order to try and gain certainty while it tries to deal with health-care reform, also known as the Affordable Care Act.

Disney has offered a 16-month extension to the Service Trades Council, which consists of six unions that represent more than 30,000 employees across the resort. They represent housekeepers, bus drivers, quick-service cooks and costumed-characters.

The deal would guarantee raises of at least 3.5 percent which equates to about 35 cents an hour for most cast members, It would also allow Disney to raise health-insurance premiums from around $3 a week to $11 a week, depending on the health plan.

An extension would help Disney from not having to engage in contract negotiations while they navigate the details of the implementation of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care act requires companies with 50 or more employees to offer coverage to workers or face fines. The Obama administration announced in July that it would delay that mandate until 2015.

Disney said a short-term contract extension also makes sense because they are in the middle of several major  projects, including the very expensive MyMagic+ technology, the expansion of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom, and the construction of an “Avatar”themed land at Animal Kingdom.

Labor is Disney’s biggest expense, it accounts for about 50 percent of operating costs.

The Service Trades Council represents more than 30,000 employees at Disney World.

Union leaders are unsure whether to accept Disney’s extension offer. The heads of three of the council’s six unions, those affiliated with United Food and Commercial Workers, Transportation Communications Union, and International Alliance of Theatrical & Stage Employees, recently voted to endorse Disney’s offer and bring it to a vote with the full membership.

But the other three, two locals affiliated with Unite Here! and one with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, opposed the idea, resulting in a disagreement.

“I thought it was a good and fair offer. I felt strongly that the membership should have been given an opportunity to vote on it,” said Service Trades Council President Ed Chambers, who is also president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1605.

The Unite Here! locals, 362 and 737, which represent housekeepers, attraction operators, custodians and restaurant workers, among many others, are opposed to Disney’s extension offer, according to union officials.

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