Dual standards at Disney 

Theme parks and resorts operated by The Walt Disney Co. posted record results during the nine months ending on June 30, 1997. Revenues for this segment of the company alone increased 13 percent to $3.7 billion, while operating income rose 16 percent to $864 million. While lagging next to the performance of its theme parks, Disney's overall operation continues to rake in Space Mountains of cash, despite an agressive acquisition strategy, including the purchase of Capital Cities/ABC for $20 billion in 1996, and bountiful feasts served to company officials, such as chairman and chief executive officer Michael Eisner, who received stock options worth almost $200 million in 1996 alone. (With a net worth of $760 million, Eisner easily retains his place among Forbes' 400 richest Americans.) Yet when it came time to set the future compensation of some of its employees, the management at Disney seems likely to adopt the miserly mindset of Scrooge McDuck -- before the ghostly visits. Witness the company's apparent victory in recent negotations with its carpenters, electricians, plumbers, laborers, and warehouse distribution workers. After threatening to strike, the leadership of the Craft Maintenance Council agreed with Disney management that its members would pay more for health insurance in 1999 and delay an increase in pension payments until 1999. Apparently, the workers are supposed to consider as victories a 2.5 percent pay increase in 1998 and 3 percent hikes in 1999 and 2000 -- just about enough to keep pace with inflation -- plus bonuses based on time with the company. On Oct. 30, more than 3,500 rank-and-file members were expected to vote on the proposal. From a workers' perspective, such a hard line seems unfair. But the hard-line approach can be expected to satisfy the Disney board, which is given to maximizing profits -- whatever the cost

More by Lawrence Budd


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