Walt Disney World has offered to elevate 427 part-time workers to full-time status because those employees have worked enough hours during the past year to qualify as full-timers under the federal Affordable Care Act.
But officials with the Service Trades Council, the coalition of unions that represents more than 30,000 full-time and part-time workers at Disney World, say they are hesitant to accept the offer because it could mean elevating some employees over more-senior part-timers who have been waiting for full-time positions.
The 427 part-time workers whom Disney would make full-time represent a tiny sliver of the giant resort's total part-time workforce. Disney has approximately 24,000 part-time employees.
Disney declined to discuss the offer, which was first reported by Bloomberg News.
Disney part-timers generally work no more than 25 hours a week, but they can pick up extra shifts. So some have been able to work more than 1,500 hours during the past year -- the approximate threshold used to define full-time employment under the Affordable Care Act, the sweeping health-care-reform legislation championed by President Barack Obama.
The legislation, commonly referred to as "Obamacare," will require large employers to offer comprehensive health insurance to all full-time workers or pay penalties, beginning next year.
Conferring full-time status on the Disney workers would ensure them more hours -- generally a minimum of 32 hours a week -- as well as giving them access to stronger company-sponsored benefits.
The complication, union leaders say, is that there are other part-time workers who have been with Disney for longer who have been waiting for full-time positions to open up. But those workers may not necessarily have worked as many hours in the past year for a variety of reasons, including the fact that many part-time Disney workers have second jobs with other employers.
"The dilemma is, sure, we want more full-time jobs. But at what cost?" said Joe Condo, a representative of the Transportation Communication Union, which represents Disney monorail pilots, lifeguards and hotel front-desk workers, among other job classifications. "Why don't you just put 400 more people in full-time jobs? But they don't want to do that."
Ed Chambers, president of the Service Trades Council, said Disney management has characterized their offer as a "one-time deal" for the specific employees who worked more than 1,500 hours.
"We've requested more information from Disney, including how many people are getting jumped over," Chambers said.
Other large employers in Orlando's tourism industry, which leans heavily on low-wage, low-benefit part-time labor, are also adjusting their work terms. SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. recently decided to cut hours for its part-time workers from a maximum of 32 a week to 28 a week. The Affordable Care Act defines full-time employees as those who work an average of at least 30 hours a week.
But SeaWorld also says it intends to hire an undisclosed number of full-time workers next year as well.
Worker hours aren't the only issue Disney is grappling with because of health-care reform. The resort currently offers its part-time workers only an extremely limited health-insurance plan that will become illegal next year under Obamacare.
Disney hasn't yet said whether it will offer part-time workers an insurance plan that complies with the federal law. But union officials say they expect the resort to simply stop offering health insurance to part-timers, matching moves made by Universal Orlando and SeaWorld.
(c)2013 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
Original headline: Disney World offers full-time jobs to 427 part-timers who meet Obamacare threshold
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