As the strike by nearly 400 Toronto Zoo workers enters its fourth week, more than a thousand supporters from across the province joined striking members of Local 1600 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 1600) in Nathan Phillips Square this afternoon, with a simple message.

The time to settle is now, before it’s too late.

“Breeding programs that bring endangered species back from the brink of extinction are at risk. Conservation and wildlife release programs are at risk. Our exchanges with international partners are at risk. Any further delay could profoundly harm these efforts,” said Christine McKenzie, President of CUPE 1600.

“We are ready and able to finish bargaining with the Toronto Zoo. The only thing missing is a partner across the bargaining table,” she added.

Today’s rally was organized by CUPE Ontario, which is holding its annual convention this week in Toronto. More than 1,000 delegates, supporters from other unions and community allies took part in today’s event.

Workers began strike action on May 11 to defend good jobs that support the community, the Zoo’s world-leading research, education and conservation efforts, and most importantly, quality animal care.

The main obstacle to a settlement has been Zoo management’s insistence that current Zoo workers agree to surrender employment security language for future Zoo employees.

“These workers could have done the easy thing and accepted something that wouldn’t affect them directly, but sold out the future workforce. Instead, they did the right thing and took a stand for the next generation,” CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn, told rally participants.

A day earlier, delegates raised more than $53,000 in less than an hour to support striking zoo workers. CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury has agreed to match this amount, to ensure striking Zoo workers have the support they need.

“This year’s convention theme is ‘Be Bold, Be Brave’, and I can tell you that we are incredibly proud and honoured to stand alongside these bold, brave workers, today and for as long as it takes,” said Hahn.

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