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Disney Keeps Furloughed ‘Little Mermaid’ Crew Through UK’s Job Retention Plan

Staffers will receive up to 80% of their salary through the government-funded program

Disney has managed to retain furloughed employees from the set of its live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid” in the United Kingdom by utilizing the government’s Job Retention Scheme to partially pay their salaries, an individual with knowledge of the decision told TheWrap.

Executive producer Jeff Silver and production manager Russell Allen informed production staff on “The Little Mermaid” that furlough notices they received on Mar. 20 would be rescinded and that they would ultimately stay on staff. However, they will remain without work through the end of May unless production resumes before then or production does not proceed as planned.

Through the plan, companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic are eligible to receive funds to pay up to 80% of furloughed workers’ salaries, with a maximum of £2,500, or roughly $3,100, per month for each employee.

Pre-production on “The Little Mermaid” was shut down on March 13 along with several other Disney productions, including the 20th Century Studios production of Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel,” which was shooting in Ireland.

The live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid” is set to star Halle Bailey as Ariel and Melissa McCarthy as the sea witch Ursula. Rob Marshall is directing the remake of the 1989 animated film.

On Tuesday, chairman and former CEO Bob Iger announced he would be foregoing his entire salary during the coronavirus shutdown and that new CEO Bob Chapek would also be taking a 50% salary reduction. Disney theme parks will remain closed until further notice, but the company is paying park cast members through April 18.

Bectu, a UK union representing creatives and freelancers, applauded Disney for utilizing the program in a statement obtained by TheWrap and said it has reached out to nearly 300 film and TV production companies urging others to furlough pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) employees in the same manner.

“Bectu welcomes Disney’s decision to furlough crew until the end of May when the government has said the JRS will run until. Disney is taking its responsibilities as an employer seriously and this is model behaviour that the rest of the industry should be looking to follow,” Bectu’s head Philippa Childs said in a statement. “We are calling on all production companies to do the same where they can and if cash flow is a problem to consider using the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme.”

Childs continued: “There are many PAYE freelancers out there who have been waiting weeks for government help and one of their only options is to be furloughed. Employers must explore this option where possible to help alleviate the stress and anxiety that many are experiencing at the moment. Bectu will continue to highlight the range of hurdles freelancers and the self-employed are facing to qualify for financial support to the Treasury.”

Deadline first reported the news.