With a May 11 deadline fast approaching, members of Local 1600 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 1600) today came to Toronto City Hall, calling on the Toronto Zoo’s Board of Management to ‘get serious’ about negotiating a fair collective agreement with its workers.

“What’s come across the table thus far from zoo management wouldn’t just be bad for our members,” said Christine McKenzie, President of CUPE 1600.

“If we were to accept what the employer has put forward, it would also harm our community, which depends on stable, secure employment that supports families, and it would be bad for the animals we care for,” she added.

CUPE 1600 has been in bargaining with the Toronto Zoo for several weeks, following the expiry of their most recent collective agreement. Late last month, Zoo management requested a ‘No Board’ report from the Ministry of Labour. Unless the two sides reach an agreement, a labour disruption could take place as early as 12:01 a.m., Thursday, May 11.

McKenzie said negotiators for the Zoo are demanding members accept dramatically-weakened job security protection, in addition to more power to contract out work.

“I hope the Zoo understands that their proposals on job security and contracting out cannot and will not be accepted by our membership. If accepted, they would set the stage to roll back so much of the work we have done to make our Toronto Zoo a world leader in education, conservation and research,” she said.

Last month, members of CUPE 1600 voted unanimously in favour of giving their bargaining committee a mandate to take any and all actions necessary to secure a fair contract, up to and including strike action.

McKenzie urged the Zoo’s Board of Management to give their negotiating team the flexibility they need to negotiate “a collective agreement that is fair to our members, while protecting and enhancing the work we all do to make the Zoo a place we’re all proud to call ‘Our Toronto Zoo’.”

CUPE 1600 represents more than 400 zookeepers, horticulturists, trades people, maintenance, administration and public relations staff, concession and ride operators at Canada’s largest zoo.