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TORONTO Toronto Zoo employees could be locked out Sunday at midnight if labour and management fail to reach an agreement on a new contract.

Talks broke off at 5 p.m. Saturday but were set to resume Sunday at 9 a.m.

We really have no idea at this point whether we are going to be locked out or reach an agreement, said Jim Fudge, the president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1600, which represents the zoo employees. We are really confused about where the zoo is headed. We are running out of hours to achieve a deal. Zoo negotiators have promised to present us with a comprehensive offer Sunday morning but we will see what that entails.

The zoo locked out its workers briefly during the last round of negotiations, even though an agreement had been reached. If the zoo is shut down because of a labour dispute at this point it will be because zoo management locked its employees out, said Fudge. We are here to negotiate a decent agreement and that is what the union is concentrating on.

The main issue is wages. A joint labour-management study shows that Toronto zoo employees earn far less than workers who perform work at many similar workplaces including Canadas Wonderland, the Calgary Zoo, and Ontario Place.

The current contract expired on March 31, 2005. CUPE Local 1600 represents approximately 170 permanent employees and 200 seasonal and casual workers at the zoo, many of whom earn wages as low as $9 an hour.


For further information, please contact:
Jim Fudge, 416-579-2873
Rick Alexander, Staff representative, 416-561-4609
Shannon McManus, CUPE Communications, 416-455-8247