Strikers take the Mickey out of Disney

MARY DEJEVSKY

Paris

There is discord in the Magic Kingdom. Walt Disney's enchanted land, which has already had its fair share of misfortune since it was transplanted to Europe, has hit a new problem: labour unrest.

Visitors to what used to be Euro Disney, now called Disneyland Paris, were offered an extra unscheduled spectacle on New Year's Eve, when a group of discontented workers picketed the main entrance. Against the surreal backdrop of balloons, Mickey Mouse paraphernalia and security staff wielding camcorders, scuffles ensued in which 14 people were injured. Now 18 Disney employees, including 10 trade union officials, face dismissal.

Details of what happened are hard to extrapolate from sharply conflicting accounts.

A spokesman for Disney said that "no more than 40 to 50 people" turned up to demonstrate, protesting "with not very coherent demands" about a host of things from the Juppe plan, the government's contentious welfare reform, to pay. "We had some people," the spokesman said, "who chose violence to express their demands...We are always open to dialogue between employees and management...but we had people who tried to force their way into the park and this is unacceptable."

But it is far from clear who is the Big Bad Wolf. The main union involved, the CGT - one of the unions at the forefront of last month's national strike movement - has a rather different version. The secretary of the Marne-la-Vallee branch, Anne-Marie Njo, said that "around 200 people" had turned up to protest about the imposition from 1 January of an "inadequate" pay rise. She said that the workers concerned had actually declared a day's strike, but that the management had changed the rotas to give all those suspected of involvement a compulsory day off.

Instead of striking, she said, the workers had to demonstrate - but when they tried to communicate with their colleagues on duty, they were prevented from entering or passing messages.

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