At the urging of a federal mediator, Disneyland and labor unions representing 3,400 employees have extended contract negotiations through Saturday.
A three-year contract, scheduled to expire today, was extended after a heated bargaining session Friday. Disneyland spokesman Ray Gomez said bargaining will continue through this week, with a vote on the company's proposal scheduled for Saturday.
Disneyland is offering ride operators, ticket takers, store clerks, janitors and other workers a five-year contract raising their pay by 2% a year. It also is offering these hourly workers a 401(k) retirement savings plan for the first time, but the union objects to the conditions.
For example, workers hired after June 2000 would be ineligible for an existing pension plan, negotiators said. Disneyland also wants the first year's 2% increase to be a bonus instead of a raise, meaning it wouldn't become part of the base pay for future employees.
The unions also object to a change that would allow the theme park to give employees' skills and work records more weight than seniority in promoting workers to higher-paid jobs.
"We will strongly oppose this proffered modification," negotiators for United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 324 said in a recent bulletin to members.
The UFCW is among several unions covered in a master services agreement with Disneyland. Others involved in the negotiations include Teamsters and Service Employees International Union locals.
The base hourly wage for veteran Disneyland employees varies from $9 to $10 for culinary and merchandise workers to the mid-$10 range for ticket takers to more than $15 for some truck drivers when operating off the Anaheim property.
While the wages compare favorably with those at other Southern California theme parks, Disneyland workers contend they are held to a higher performance standard. They also are keenly aware of the hundreds of millions of dollars in stock options and bonuses enjoyed by Walt Disney Co. Chairman Michael Eisner, union officials said.
The company and the union requested federal mediation and agreed to extend the negotiations at the suggestion of the mediator, Joseph A. Mansolillo.
Labor relations have at times turned bitter in what the public knows as the Happiest Place on Earth. In 1984, a Disneyland strike lasted more than three weeks.
And just this summer, Disney character actors picketed Disneyland Paris to protest their wages.
After the stock market closed Friday, Disney announced that its earnings this quarter will fall short of expectations, largely due to the Asian financial crisis. Foreign economic woes also have contributed to lower attendance at Disneyland, park spokesman Gomez said.
Disney shares fell $1.38 on Monday in New York Stock Exchange trading to close at $24.44. That was 43% lower than the stock's high of $42.75 in the last year.