’We are the ones who do the magic.’ Disneyland Paris workers hold sixth walkout

Constantly changing hours, understaffed and low pay – Disneyland Paris employees say their lives are nothing but dreams.

Disneyland Paris says that magic is real and a place where dreams come true. But many of the real people who create that magic say their daily lives are far from their dreams.

In recent weeks, union banners and slogans have replaced costumed characters and whimsical music as workers have taken part in a rare strike at Disneyland Paris, Europe’s top tourist attraction.

On Monday, unions held a sixth day of walkouts at the Disneyland Resort in Marne-la-Valley, just outside the French capital. Employees have demanded better working conditions and higher wages to account for inflation.

The first strike took place on May 23, and 500 „actors” walked off the job out of a total of 17,000 employees at the park. By June 3, their numbers had doubled. Jobs such as hotels, maintenance and security are the most affected.

The strikers are demanding a pay rise of €200 per month and double pay on Sundays and fairer working hours.

A Disneyland Paris spokesperson told Euronews: “Around 60 people are on strike today. The park remains open and we have only canceled one show.

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

Lilly, 26, who regularly visits the theme park, told Euronews: „There were about a few hundred people on strike. They were whistling and chanting, but it wasn’t particularly disturbing – the park is so big that you could easily go all day without seeing them.

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„You see people falling apart”

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

Agathe Kittet, a former make-up artist at Disneyland Paris, said the work environment was toxic, with hours constantly changing, understaffing and management demanding weekend work without extra pay.

Guittet wrote on Twitter: „You see people falling apart around you… then people start leaving. Your superiors don’t care when they realize this job is destroying you and you start thinking about it too. They only look at the stats and have no idea what your job really requires. No empathy.

Other grievances of striking workers include lack of training and opportunities to advance in their careers.

A rare crack at Disney’s facade

Despite the French preference for strike action, Disneyland Paris has not been the target of frequent disruptive industrial action. The last major strike was in 1999 over salary issues.

Striking workers have told French media that their latest actions came as a last resort after what they felt was an inadequate (and, for some, humiliating) response from management.

Disney is said to be paying employees year-end bonuses in monthly installments with a one-time bonus of 125 euros in May.

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

„Over the past 12 months, most employees have seen their salary increase between 9-12% and have benefited from bonuses,” the spokesperson added.

Last year, Disneyland Paris’s revenue hit a record high – with the park raking in 2.4 billion euros thanks to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and the popular new Marvel superhero-themed land. It also made an operating profit of €47 million, a welcome surprise for a sector that is rarely profitable.

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The striking workers say they need their share: „We are the ones who create the magic, but we don’t benefit from it.”

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