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Disney Limits Retiree Health Plan

March 25, 1994|CHRIS WOODYARD

The Walt Disney Co., reeling from continued losses at Euro Disney, is tightening eligibility requirements for retirees' health care benefits among its 70,000 employees worldwide.

Under the new Disney policy, a worker must stay with the company until at least age 55 to be eligible for continued coverage after retirement.

The changes are the latest cost-cutting moves at Burbank-based Disney, which is reeling from losses at its Euro Disney resort in France. Disney's half-ownership of the troubled attraction cut $514 million from its bottom line last fiscal year. Euro Disney is undergoing financial restructuring, and the effects are reverberating throughout the company.

In light of the Euro Disney losses, Disney is widely believed to be reconsidering whether to proceed with the $3-billion Disneyland Resort project, which would add a Westcot theme park and several hotels to Disneyland in Anaheim.

In the theme park division--the company's largest and most profitable sector--Disney recently took the uncommon move of dismissing 60 middle managers at Disneyland in Anaheim and 300 at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Fla. Disneyland workers said in a recent company poll that they believe penny-pinching has reduced the quality of the park for visitors.

The rule strikes particularly hard at the 45,000 workers in Disney's theme park division, because so many started in high school or college, climbed through the ranks to middle management and are still more than a decade from age 55.

"They have been pushing people out the door for awhile," said one janitor with more than 20 years experience.

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