Disney ABC Reverses Layoffs After Uproar Over Parks and Resorts

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Thirty IT employees were notified three weeks ago that their jobs were to be eliminated.

Insiders at Walt Disney were defending the company Wednesday from widespread criticism over layoffs in its Parks and Resorts information technology department and confirmed that similar actions at the Disney ABC Television Group have been nixed.

At Disney ABC, 30 IT employees were notified three weeks ago that their jobs were to be eliminated and their roles to be outsourced to Cognizant Technology Solutions, but last week that decision was reversed amid a furor over the elimination of 250 IT jobs a few weeks earlier at Parks and Resorts.

"In the course of making any technology upgrade, we look at a myriad of options to achieve our goals. We're clearly on an alternative path to achieve those goals that we think is better suited to our business," said Disney ABC spokesman Kevin Brockman in confirming the decision to rescind the order for 30 layoffs.

Disney insiders told The Hollywood Reporter that some of the negative publicity over the elimination of jobs in Parks and Resorts, primarily in Florida, is undeserved, given that 120 people were placed elsewhere at Disney or with vendors. Also, the company said that it intends to hire 320 IT professionals in the U.S., so when all is said and done, it will employ 70 more people than it had prior to the layoffs.

Still, one executive acknowledged that the negative media had generated a large number of complaints, mostly via email, from Disney's detractors and its fans, though that's par for the course given the passion that some Americans have for the iconic company.

"When we move a drinking fountain or change a paint color at Disneyland we get mail about it," quipped one executive with knowledge of the situation.

Much has been made of Disney forcing laid-off employees to train the workers who'd be doing their former jobs, but insiders said that that policy only applied to a "handful" of employees who were paid a "stay bonus" on top of their severance in exchange for their cooperation.

Disney insiders say the elimination of jobs at Parks and Resorts were related to legacy systems that Disney is moving away from or at least working to improve on. "They are bread and butter technologies," as one executive put it, having to do with ticket sales, hotel reservations, accounting and the like.

A Disney executive also said the layoffs have little to do with the controversial H-1B temporary worker visa program, which companies use to hire foreign workers with specialized skills on the condition they won't be taking jobs from Americans. One Disney executive said the company uses H-1B sparingly, "just to fill holes."

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com

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