News / Toronto

Toronto Zoo, striking staff head back to the table

Contract talks broke down last week over a guarantee for a minimum number of permanent staff jobs.

Striking Toronto Zoo staff members walk the picket line outside the facility's main entrance on Thursday, May 11.

METROLAND MEDIA/ STAFF

Striking Toronto Zoo staff members walk the picket line outside the facility's main entrance on Thursday, May 11.

Negotiators for the shuttered Toronto Zoo and more than 400 striking staff are going back to the bargaining table, sources say.

The talks, slated to restart at 2 p.m. Thursday, will raise hopes for a settlement to end the week-old strike and get the city-owned attraction and animal research-and-breeding facility back open to the public.

Zoo staff walked off the job last Thursday after negotiations broke down, primarily over a two-decade-old contract guarantee that the attraction and animal research-and-breeding facility must employ a minimum of 150 permanent, full-time staff.

The city-owned facility currently has 183 such staff plus more than 170 seasonal workers. As well as veterinarians and keepers, those on strike include maintenance and concession staff.

McKenzie, a zookeeper for Vancouver Island marmots, has said the job-security provision is vital to the zoo remaining more than “an amusement and attraction” with 5,000 animals.

“We can’t continue to be a world leader and do the work we do . . . saving species from extinction, if we don’t have job security, and the employer refuses to negotiate that item,” she told the Star on the picket line last week.

Jennifer Tracey, the zoo’s senior communications director, said last Friday that the zoo is “resolute” that it will not renew the minimum staffing provision and denied the attempt to remove it from the contract weakens workers’ job security.

“We have been clear during bargaining and remain resolute that we will not entertain the union’s additional proposals that would essentially reinstate absolute job security for 150 permanent unionized employees regardless of the circumstances,” Tracey told the Star in an email.

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