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Disney denies staff claims of neglect - The Standard, Hong Kong, 11/11/05


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  • Disney denies staff claims of neglect - The Standard, Hong Kong, 11/11/05

    Hong Kong Disneyland has denied accusations that it neglects the occupational health of its staff and sets unfair contract terms.

    The pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions said Thursday it had received dozens of complaints and more than 100 enquires from Disneyland staff since mid August, three weeks ahead of the theme park's opening, on issues such as working conditions, unfair contracts and inadequate rest breaks.

    But Hong Kong Disneyland spokeswoman Esther Wong hit back at the claims. "The health and safety of our cast is our first priority," she said.
    Federation deputy director Ip Wai- ming said Disney failed to provide enough physiotherapists for its entertainment department.

    The theme park employs more than 100 performers and dancers, and should hire more physiotherapists, he said.

    "Some dancers told us when they suffered muscular injuries, there was just one physiotherapist to treat them all," Ip said.

    Wong countered: "We work closely with our cast and professionals in the field of occupational health and safety."

    Another complaint was that Disney does not provide more than one costume to each performer to change during the course of a working day, which includes several parades.

    Ip said the dancers move and sweat a lot during the parades and shows.

    "They are not allowed to change costumes in between performances, which can cause skin problems and other complaints," he said.

    Some dancers also told the unions that they suffer eye allergies from having to wear heavy make-up for long periods.

    "Disney doesn't even divulge the ingredients of its make-up to its staff. So when affected dancers go to see the doctor, they cannot tell what they are using, and fail to get proper treatment," Ip said.

    Disney's Wong had no comment to make on the claim.

    Unionist legislator Wong Kwok- hing presented a copy of an employment contract provided by a complainant and called for Disney to remove unfair contractual terms.

    The legislator described the contract as "the employee's life and fate controlled by the company."

    In the contract, Disney is able to make any change, amendment, termination, interpretation or cancellation of the employment terms stated in an employee's policy handbook without prior notification and explanation to its staff.

    "This is an unfair and wrong policy," the legislator said.

    Disney is reluctant to give the English version of the contract to its staff, but states that all disagreements arising from different interpretations of the contract will be based on the English version, Wong said.

    "But no-one has seen the English version. They [staff] don't even know their rights," he said.

    He added that the contracts contain many ambiguities that often do not clearly identify specific duties and which allow Disney to give their staff extra work.

    "The parade dancers told us that they have to do the greeters' job - taking the cartoon characters around to have photos taken with visitors - when they are supposed to have breaks between shows," Wong said.
    He called for Disney to make clear distinctions of each staff's working responsibilities in their contracts.

    A Labour Department spokeswoman said that, under the Employment Ordinance, Disney is required to give a copy of the English version of the contract to its staff, if the workers request it.
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