The Toronto Zoo's negotiation team regrets to report that, despite its efforts to end the current disruption, the Union has, once again, rejected a reasonable compromise which was reached with the assistance of the provincially appointed mediator. As a result, the Union walked away from the bargaining table earlier today.
While the Union may claim its job action is intended to preserve the job security that its members enjoy, today it rejected a proposed compromise that would have preserved the current collective agreement's job security language for all existing employees, and resulted in the return of the '150 clause' until the end of the renewal term. This clause guarantees the Zoo will maintain a work force of not less than 150 employees during the course of the next agreement. This is a clause unique to the Zoo and does not exist in other City of Toronto collective agreements. In addition, the Zoo proposed the following:
- All current employees in the bargaining unit continue to be protected from contracting out. After 11 years of service, new employees will be protected from contracting out.
- Duration of the proposed contract is until March 31, 2021
- No change to employer paid pension plan
- No change to multiple weeks of vacation time annually
- The continuation of a generous health and dental benefits plan including access to more than 100 sick days each year
The Zoo operates with the benefit of what, in 2016, was a $12 million annual operating subsidy from the City of Toronto. Given that level of financial subsidy and the job security language that is provided to the City of Toronto’s own employees (CUPE Locals 416 and 79), and those of the Toronto Public Library, Zoo management believes that its proposals related to job security, are entirely fair and reasonable. The union appears intent on continuing this job action despite the City's proposal to continue the present level of job security for all existing employees. In addition, the current dispute does not relate to wages and the union has indicated that the only outstanding issue is job security.
Toronto Zoo employees, including our valued employees represented by CUPE 1600, are well paid, receive an employer paid pension plan, multiple weeks of vacation each year, and are covered by excellent health and dental benefits which includes access to more than 100 sick days per year. We value the work of our unionized staff which is why the Zoo is committed to reaching a fair and reasonable deal with our employees. At a special meeting of the Toronto Zoo Board of Management on Friday, May 19, 2017 the board confirmed its instructions to the negotiating team. On the morning of Saturday, May 20th, the Zoo presented its offer, with the assistance of the provincially appointed mediator, to the union’s bargaining team which the union quickly rejected and again walked away from the table.
The Toronto Zoo has a proud history of saving and protecting species since it first opened in 1974. We are more committed than ever to continue our efforts against extinction for some of the world’s most vulnerable species, particularly Canadian species. Everyone who works at the Zoo has embraced our mission to be a living centre for education and science, committed to providing compelling guest experiences and inspiring passion to protect wildlife and habitats.
The Toronto Zoo remains committed to providing our valued unionized staff with a fair and reasonable agreement and we remain ready to return to the bargaining table in order to finalize an agreement. On Friday, the Union suggested that we were 95% of the way to a settlement. Today's proposal, which maintains the current level of job security for all existing employees, should have provided that last 5% and allowed striking employees to return to work.
The Toronto Zoo will remain closed during the strike by CUPE Local 1600 members.
Jennifer Tracey, Senior Director, Marketing, Communications and Partnerships
The key job security elements of the proposal that the Zoo's bargaining team gave to the Union, today, are:
- Appendix D to the prior collective agreement, which guaranteed the Zoo's continued employment of at least 150 permanent employees, would be extended with a new expiry date of March 31, 2021. The parties had previously agreed, in 2013, that Appendix D expired on March 31, 2017;
- Current employees would continue to enjoy the same level of job security, in the event of contracting out, that they received under the prior collective agreement. Employees who are hired, following ratification of the renewal collective agreement, would be provided with job security, in the event of contracting out, after they have acquired eleven (11) years' service with the Zoo; and
- The level of job security that the Zoo is offering new employees is equivalent to the job security that is presently enjoyed by permanent employees of other City agencies, including the Toronto Public Library and Toronto Community Housing Corporation. It is more favourable job security than the level that is provided to the City's own permanent employees.