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TORONTO Toronto Zoo employees could be walking picket lines as early as 12:01 a.m., April 25 after management negotiators asked a Ministry of Labour conciliator to file a no board report yesterday that triggers a strike/lockout deadline.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1600, which represents zoo employees, is concerned that the move indicates that the zoo intends to lock its employees out, as it did during the last round of negotiations.

When these contract talks began, zoo negotiators told us that they wanted a different style of bargaining this time around, said Jim Fudge, the president of the local. We were optimistic because there seemed to be a less confrontational climate since the last municipal elections. Instead, we are seeing the same tactics they used during the Mel Lastman regime.

CUPE says that the Toronto Zoo refused to participate in the conciliation stage of bargaining yesterday. There is a whole lot of work to be done if we are to avoid a labour disruption, said Fudge. As soon as the conciliator arrived, zoo negotiators gave him his marching orders. They wanted a strike-lockout deadline imposed as soon as possible.

The zoo locked out its workers briefly during the last round of negotiations, even though an agreement had been reached. Is it any wonder we are worried, said Fudge. They appear to be steamrolling towards a lockout again.

The main issue is wages. Three years ago, zoo managers were given wage parity with city managers, increasing their salaries substantially. They do not want to increase the wages of front-line zoo workers, even though a joint labour-management study shows that Toronto zoo employees earn far less than workers at comparable jobs, said Fudge.

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 more information, please contact:

Jim Fudge (416) 579-2873

Shannon McManus, CUPE Communications (416) 292-3999, ext. 222 - (416) 766-3252

Rick Alexander, Staff Representative (416) 561-4609