WATCH ABOVE: Toronto Zoo strike deadline looming. Ashley Carter reports. (May 10)
The Toronto Zoo has closed to visitors after the union for more than 400 Toronto Zoo workers announced its members are going on strike.
CUPE Local 1600, which represents zookeepers, horticulturists, concession and ride operators, trades and maintenance workers, public relations and administrative staff, was in a legal strike position as of Thursday.
“We are incredibly disappointed to have to take strike action, but the Toronto Zoo’s refusal to move on job security left us with no alternative,” Local 1600 president Christine McKenzie said in a news release early Thursday morning.
“No one on this bargaining committee wanted a strike, but you cannot have a world-leading research, conservation and education facility by consigning hundreds of workers to precarious, insecure jobs that don’t support communities.”
Picket lines were established at the zoo’s entrances Thursday morning and workers have been asked to report for picket duty during their regularly-scheduled shifts.
McKenzie said union bargaining committee members are ready to resume negotiations and called for increased negotiating flexibility by the Toronto Zoo Board of Management.
“We have numerous animals on the verge of giving birth, a new health centre supposed to open, and thousands of animals that won’t be getting the level of care they should be getting,” McKenzie said.
Meanwhile, in an early morning post on the Toronto Zoo’s Facebook page, officials announced the facility will be closed until further notice.
“The Toronto Zoo presented fair and reasonable proposals that were rejected by the Union – these proposals included job security and wage increases,” the statement said, adding the zoo’s bargaining position would consider contracts negotiated between the City of Toronto and other CUPE locals.
“The Toronto Zoo is a not-for-profit charitable organization. The union’s demands were simply unaffordable and do not reflect the financial realities facing the Zoo or other settlements reached within the City of Toronto.”
Toronto Zoo officials said its employees are well compensated and that a “series of proposals” to address job security concerns were tabled.
“The Toronto Zoo has been more than fair and reasonable. The negotiation process involves give and take by both parties but the union has not provided any flexibility from their side. We are satisfied that the proposals recently tabled by the Zoo satisfactorily address the issues of job security raised by the union and also provides for wage increases throughout the term of the agreement.”
Zoo management said a “robust contingency plan” has been set up “to ensure the health and welfare of [the Zoo’s] animals.”