As reported in detail last week, the three unions cfdt, CFTC and UNSA representing cast members of Disneyland Paris had called for a one day strike on December 23, 2009. In the years past strike actions usually were limited to gatherings in front of the RER and TGV train station as well as in front of the entrance to the Fantasia Gardens (making sure guests had to pass through a cordon of union members voicing their discontent with the management of Disneyland Paris). Ocassionaly the strikers marched through the Disney Village and around Lake Disney. However, impact on the guest experience was minimal while the unions still were able to get a showing of their strength. However, the current union membership decided that it was time to take the guests paying their wages as hostages of their actions. According to an article of the daily Le Parisien posted on the website of the union cfdt the unions not only managed to get the days only performances of Disney Stars’n'Cars in the Walt Disney Studios Park (as seen at the bottom of this article in a video posted by chrissouille08 to YouTube) and the Once Upon a Dream Parade in the Disneyland Park cancelled instead marching down the parade route / showing off on the stage on Production Courtyard with their flags and posters – as reported on DLP.info in both cases. In addition the strikers apparently temporarly blocked access to various attractions including Space Mountain: Mission 2 and Big Thunder Mountain. Furthermore they convened on a performanc of the stunt show in the Walt Disney Studios Park and demonstrated inside Studio 1 as well as inside the lobby of Disney’s Hotel New York.
In other words: the unions managed to destroy a considerable bit of the magic and made a part of the visit on the day miserable for guests, for many of which this most probably was a once-in-a-lifetime visit - even so their apparently were only between 150 and 200 striking cast members and the majority of cast members tried their best to make sure guests had a magical time.
The demands? Negotiations regarding the work conditions and regarding age increases, which the management of Disneyland Paris had originally countered with ” zero wage increase” proposal for 2010. The results? They came swift…
… and were not as many might have expected a clear rebuke of the actions of the unions but instead more or less a declaration of defeat. In light of the volatile economic climate that had already hit the resort in 2009 the management seemed unwilling to risk even more union actions and with a letter on the evening of the strike day agreed to re-enter into negotations regarding a potential wage increase in 2010. An article from the daily Le Parisien from December 25 published on the website of the union cfdt even confirmed that the management of Disneyland Paris is already confirming that there will be a general wage increase, basically limiting the negotiations to the amount of the increase. According to Le Parisien negotiations are to start on February 18, 2010.
Both from the view point of future guests as well as from the view point of shareholders the swift declaration of defeat of the management seems questionable. The management basically showed the unions that with destroying the magic of Disneyland Paris for guests the unions can force the management to cave in. Compared to the much smaller progress the unions were able to gain from the strike actions in years past which did not impact guest experience directly the signal management is sending to the unions is clear: strike inside the parks and you get what you want. So it might be questionable whether that warded of further strike actions or even invited it…
Is that the right signal? It could and should be questioned. What should stop the unions from repeatedly disrupting the operations of the parks in the future when they have a new demand? The risk the management is running here is that guests may decide to opt against a visit to Disneyland Paris and choose to go to, say, a Disney resort in the USA, where management is standing strong against striking cast members and takes swift action to keep the show going. In this regard: user SuperLakers1111 has uploaded six videos from the strike action throughout the resort to YouTube filmed from inside the strikers’ group (of which he apparently was a member), including a video showing the strikers interrupting the stunt show filmed on the stage. Watching these videos one question comes up that should be looked further into by the management in charge: why and how were the striking cast members clearly waving posters and flags able to gain access to the Disneyland Park through the regular entrance gates? Why did the security not make use of their rights on private property to turn them back to keep the strike action limited to Fantasia Garden? Swift action at that point would have stopped cast members most probably from ruining the experience of the guests waiting inside the Disneyland Park for the Once Upon a Dream parade.
However, the strike action, the reaction to it by management and their long run implications are topics that should be further looked into – by the management (for which shareholders most probably will bring it up during the next annual meeting) as well as by the unions. Yes, in short term perspective the management diffused the strikes. Also in short term perspective the unions got back into the negotiations they demanded and it seems even got the management to grant at least some wage increase. But in long term? It needs to be awaited by how many potential future guests the actions and their impact on guest experience have been or (considering the widespread online coverage) will still be noticed by and how these potential guests will react – especially considering that for many guests a visit to Disneyland Paris is a once-in-a-lifetime experience which is connected to considerable expenses and therefore is reconsidered repeatedly in light of the current economic situation. Did the actions harm the image and thus the business success of the resort and the company paying their members’ wages?
Unfortunately it must be said: guests planning to visit the resort in 2010 in wake of the past strike should definitely check out the website of cfdt prior to departing for the resort so that they are able to prepare for potential future strikes during their visit – in particular around times that are especially “good” for strikes (i.e. especially busy days) and around the dates for which negotiations are scheduled (apparently currently February 18, 2010) – just in case the unions once again decide to push their demands on the back of the guests without any regard for their experience despite these guests actually paying their wage and having spend a considerable amount of money for the visit.