Five Disney frontline staff concerned at working conditions yesterday created the Hong Kong Disneyland Cast Members' Union in a bid to address the problems. 'We received no special training and guidelines on work safety, but were merely provided with a booklet,' said union organiser Christine Wong Kai-chi. Another organiser, Gigi Ngan, said conditions and benefits for Disney staff in the United States were far better than those in Hong Kong. 'They have shorter working hours, meal allowances, five minutes' walking time to their rest place, double pay on holidays and overtime payments calculated on a daily basis,' she said. Hong Kong staff rarely obtained overtime, she said, because it was calculated on a monthly basis and any surplus working hours in a week would be offset by the day off the following week. Ms Ngan said she deferred her tertiary study to live her dream by joining Disney but instead found herself in a nightmare after prolonged walking left her crippled. The 19-year-old machine operator said the problem began two months ago when she woke up at night suffering spasms in her legs, which were later found to be infected due to long hours on her feet. She has been on sick leave since. Among the 120 complaints made to the Confederation of Trade Unions by Disneyland staff, 20 related to occupational sickness ranging from sore legs, back pain and damaged voices. Some required hospital treatment. The five core union members, all graduates of a six-month Disney cultural representative exchange programme to the US earlier this year, said they were frustrated when told to stop comparing the local park with US conditions. 'We were supposed to spread and teach our fellow colleagues the set of values adopted by our US counterpart, but now they say we should follow the model in Hong Kong,' said another union organiser, Yoroko Chan Wing-yan. But Hong Kong Disneyland learning and development director Christine Wong Siu-ping said it was Disney's spirit they were supposed to follow, not every US factor. 'We have to realise the service target is different, our major clients are Chinese, we can't follow every step of the US Disney operation,' she said. Staff had received mandatory safety courses and a voluntary one tailored for their jobs, she said. Disneyland human resources services director Greg Morley said Disney respected workers' rights to set up a union and no one would be persecuted for joining it.