Universal Cuts Workforce As Theme Parks Face Major Hurdles from COVID-19!

Image Source: Orlando Sentinel

Per the Orlando Sentinel, Universal Orlando Resort laid off an undisclosed number of workers Friday, a day after its parent company revealed the stark financial picture of the COVID-19’s impact. Universal did not state how many people were laid off or in what departments. A notice had not yet been filed with the state Friday, but the news of the layoffs has circulated throughout social media.

For those employees, the company will provide severance pay, subsidized health benefits and reemployment assistance, Universal spokesman Tom Schroder said in an email.

“We are prioritizing daily operations and shorter-term projects and continuing our pause on longer-term projects such as Epic Universe as we allow the tourism industry to recover,” Schroder’s statement said. “We have again made the difficult decision to reduce our workforce to reflect current priorities and needs. As always, we are aware of the impact this will have on those affected by this decision and their families.”

Schroder added, “We continue to have confidence in the long term future of our business, our industry and our community.”

The layoffs come at Universal Orlando Resort, which doesn’t have a unionized workforce like Walt Disney World, as the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefits approved by Congress during the pandemic have expired. Now, laid-off Florida workers are only eligible for a maximum of $275 a week from the state in unemployment benefits for up to 12 weeks.

NBCUniversal, which is run by media giant Comcast Corp., owns Universal.

Throughout the company, the “financial impact has been most significant and immediate and the operational challenge the most daunting” for theme parks during the coronavirus pandemic, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell told investors Thursday during an earnings call.

Thursday’s release of the second-quarter earnings showed that Universal parks’ revenue fell 94% from nearly $1.5 billion in 2019 to $87 million.

Already, the implications of the cuts and the realities of the coronavirus pandemic are felt in Orlando.

Just last week, Universal also announced it was canceling Halloween Horror Nights, a fan favorite event and big moneymaker featuring haunted mazes and scare zones.

Executives reiterated Thursday that Universal’s Epic Universe, the third theme park in Orlando, has paused construction without a restarting date during the economic uncertainty.

The troubles aren’t unique in Orlando as some furloughed SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World employees haven’t been called back to work. Rosen Hotels and Resorts laid off nearly 2,000 people effective Friday.

Walt Disney Company is scheduled to release its earnings Tuesday with SeaWorld following on Aug. 10.

Source: https://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/tourism/os-bz-universal-layoffs-20200731-spkrzufc2fc3bpdbbyusgi3lxm-story.html