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'We’re the ones who make the magic.' Disneyland Paris workers stage sixth walkout

Employees at Disneyland Paris have been striking since the end of May over wages and working conditions.
Employees at Disneyland Paris have been striking since the end of May over wages and working conditions. Copyright Francois Mori/AP
Copyright Francois Mori/AP
By Anca UleaEstelle Nilsson-Julien
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Constantly changing hours, short-staffing and low wages - Disneyland Paris employees say their lives are anything but dreamy.

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Disneyland Paris claims to be a place where magic is real and dreams can come true. But many of the real people creating that magic say that their daily lives are far from dreamy.

In recent weeks, union banners and chants have replaced costumed characters and whimsical music at Disneyland Paris, as workers take part in a rare strike at the amusement park, Europe’s top tourist destination.

On Monday, unions staged a sixth day of walkouts at the Disneyland resort in Marne-la-Vallée, just outside the French capital. Employees are calling for better working conditions and higher wages to account for inflation.

The first strike took place on 23 May and saw 500 “cast members” walk out on the job, out of 17,000 total employees at the park. By 3 June, their numbers had doubled. The jobs that are most impacted are in hotels, maintenance and security.

Strikers are demanding a €200 per month salary increase, and double pay on Sundays, as well as more reasonable working hours.

A Disneyland Paris spokesperson told Euronews: “there are about 60 people striking today. The park remains open and we have only cancelled one show.“

Videos posted on social media showed dozens of people gathered on the bridge in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, the park's central attraction.

26-year-old Lily, who regularly comes to the theme park, told Euronews: “around a few hundred people were on strike. They were blowing whistles, chanting but it wasn’t particularly disturbing - the park is so big that you could easily go the entire day without seeing them.“

“You see people falling apart”

Some current and former Disneyland Paris workers took to social media to explain the difficult working conditions.

Agathe Guittet, a former makeup artist at Disneyland Paris, said the working environment was toxic, with hours constantly changing, a lack of personnel and management demanding employees work weekends for no extra pay.

Guittet wrote on Twitter: “You see people falling apart around you… then people start to leave. And you also start to think about it because you realise this job is destroying you and your superiors don’t care. They only see the figures and have no empathy for what your job really requires.”

Other complaints from striking workers include a lack of training and opportunities to progress in their careers.

A rare crack in Disney’s façade

Despite the French penchant for striking, Disneyland Paris has not been a frequent target of disruptive industrial action. The last major strike took place in 1999, also over a pay dispute.

Eric Feferberg/AFP
The last major strike at Disneyland Paris took place in 1999, when workers demanded higher wages for the new millennium.Eric Feferberg/AFP

Striking workers have told French media that their recent actions came as a last resort, after what they deemed was an insufficient (and for some, insulting) response from management.

Disney reportedly offered to deliver employees’ end-of-year bonus in monthly instalments along with a €125 one-time bonus in May.

When asked to comment, a Disneyland Paris spokesperson told Euronews that management moved up the annual negotiations between management and trade unions from October to August.

"During the last 12 months, most employees have seen their salaries increase between 9-12% and they have also benefited from bonuses,” the spokesperson added.

Last year, Disneyland Paris’ revenues hit a record high - the park brought in €2.4 billion thanks to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and a popular new Marvel superhero-themed land. It also made a €47 million operating profit, a welcome surprise for a sector that rarely turns a profit.

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Striking employees say they simply want their share: “We’re the ones who make the magic, but we don’t get to benefit from it.”

Additional sources • Le Monde

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