Following the lead of Disney and Universal, SeaWorld announced it will raise its starting hourly wage to $11, which is less than what the other theme parks will pay their workers beginning in 2019.

The rate had previously been $10 per hour. The raise, which will take effect Monday, will only apply to the company’s Orlando parks — SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Orlando and Discovery Cove — not the nationwide SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment chain.

In an email to employees, Mark Pauls, park president of SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica Orlando, said the company “will continue our practice of regularly evaluating our pay rates and will make future adjustments as necessary to remain competitive in the market.”

“Our ambassadors are our greatest asset, and we are so proud of the work that you do,” Pauls wrote.

Unionized workers at Disney World won a series of minimum wage hikes with its latest labor contract, beginning with a raise to $11 an hour this month, then up to $12 in March and continuing to climb incrementally until hitting $15 an hour in October 2021. Universal, which like SeaWorld is not unionized, followed suit in November by announcing it would increase its own starting pay to $12 per hour starting in February. This means by spring 2019, SeaWorld’s minimum hourly wage will be $1 lower than its biggest competitors.

When Orlando Rising asked why the park is not matching the wage increases at Disney and Universal, SeaWorld spokesperson Suzanne Pelisson-Beasley referred to the company’s earlier statement on the wage increase. 

“We are continually evaluating our pay rates and make adjustments when necessary to remain competitive in the industry,” she said.

The SeaWorld chain has shown signs of a comeback in 2018 after years of declining attendance and revenue. Through the first nine months of the year, its parks had welcomed 18 million guests, an 8.7 percent increase over the same period in 2017. The company reported net income of $55.8 million, compared to a loss of almost $182 million the year before.

Favorable financial results, however, have not stopped the chain from continuing to cut costs and staff. In August, the company eliminated 125 jobs across its parks and within its Orlando-based corporate office.

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