Toronto, ON—Negotiations to settle the week-long strike between Local 1600 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 1600) and the Toronto Zoo broke down following the Zoo’s refusal to provide any rational around why they insist on changes to the collective agreement that only hurt the important work of the zoo
“It is incredibly frustrating and disappointing,” CUPE 1600 President Christine McKenzie said in a statement released following the breakdown of negotiations.
“We have repeatedly asked the employer to provide a compelling rationale for why they are demanding changes to language that protects needed staffing levels. The Zoo has been unwilling or unable to provide any such rationale,” she added.
The two sides met this morning, following a meeting of the Zoo’s Board of Management, which took place yesterday. The Board’s long contentious discussion resulted in a split vote, with one city councillor stating afterwards that the Board was “waging war on (workers) for no good reason.”
“We will not sell out future generations of the Toronto Zoo’s important work” said McKenzie.
“The employment security and contracting out language we are fighting to protect maintains the Zoo’s world-leading conservation, research, education and species survial programs. It helps maintain our world-renowned veterinary research facility. These are the programs that will be put at risk by cuts to staffing, contracted out work and a revolving door of staff. These are programs that are integral to a 21st century zoo,” she added.
Despite repeated requests to provide a clear rationale for seeking these concessions, negotiators for the Toronto Zoo were either unable or unwilling to do so.
The only justification they can provide is that their proposals more closely mirror agreements negotiated with other City of Toronto bargaining units,” said McKenzie.
“We are Zoo workers with a collective agreement negotiated to reflect the needs of our Zoo workplace” she added. “We are asking – what is the agenda for the future of the zoo? Let’s be transparent about what this is really about”
No further talks are scheduled at this time. The union remains available to resume negotiations on short notice, but “we will not bargain with ourselves or trade away the rights of future generations of Toronto Zoo employees,” said McKenzie.
For more information, please contact Kevin Wilson, CUPE Communications, 416-821-6641