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Disney offers full-time jobs to park staff as Obamacare starts

Walt Disney Co. is offering full-time positions to 427 part-time employees at Walt Disney World in Florida who worked enough hours to qualify for health benefits under the Affordable Care Act.

The offer was made to staffers who put in more than 1,500 hours in the past year, the threshold at which employers will be required to offer coverage, said Ed Chambers, president of the Service Trades Council, which represents 37,000 at Disney parks in Orlando. Other companies are reducing hours to avoid the mandate.

While Disney’s proposal is good for employees, it presents a dilemma for the six affected unions because some who qualify have less seniority than others in line for full-time jobs, Chambers said. Representatives of the unions, which operate under the Service Trades Council umbrella, are requesting more information from Disney and plan to meet again Monday.

“Disney wants to be proactive,” Chambers said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “Disney is way out in front on this.”

Roughly 27,000 full-time employees at Walt Disney World get health care benefits that meet the requirements of the act, Chambers said. Part-time workers who don’t qualify for coverage under the act get more limited benefits.

A spokeswoman for Walt Disney World in Florida had no comment.

Insurance exchanges designed to provide medical coverage to 48 million uninsured Americans began offering plans Tuesday for service that would start Jan. 1. As the marketplaces opened, the U.S. government partially shut down for the first time in 17 years after Republicans sought to delay the law.

Companies nationwide have been reviewing their health plans in light of employer mandates that take effect in 2015. Individuals are required to sign up for coverage starting in January.

In August, United Parcel Service said it will drop coverage for employed spouses, while Walgreens last month told 160,000 workers they must buy insurance from a private exchange rather than have the company arrange their coverage.

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., based in Orlando, last month reduced its cap on weekly hours for part-time employees to 28 hours next year from 32. The company said it will add full-time employees at its 11 parks next year. Those positions will include medical benefits, while part-time jobs won’t.

SeaWorld has about 22,100 employees, including about 4,400 full-time, according to a regulatory filing in May.

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