CUPE 1989 Supports Striking Zoo Workers, and You Should, Too

Members of CUPE 1600, Toronto Zoo workers, are on strike to protect good jobs that support our communities, as well as the best possible conditions for the 5,000 animals in their care.

Toronto Zoo management wants workers to accept a contract that weakens job security — which means more precarious jobs in the GTA and a lower standard of care for the animals. You can’t maintain a world-class education, research and conservation facility with unstable, precarious workers.

In 1997, Toronto Zoo workers were on strike for nine weeks. Through their struggle, they achieved an important contract provision called a “minimum complement”. This means that the Zoo can farm out some work to private contractors, but it cannot employ fewer than 150 full-time, permanent employees. This is good for the workers, good for the animals, and good for our communities, as people with decent, full-time work support the economy and the social fabric in ways that precarious workers cannot.

Now Zoo management wants to remove the minimum complement provision from the workers’ contract. This would mean that dozens, possibly hundreds, of people who now have decent work, with benefits and a pension, would soon be unemployed!

There is only one reason employers try to remove minimum complement provisions — because they plan to fire permanent employees and hire private, for-profit contractors. The contractors usually pay minimum wage — and pocket the difference. Let’s be clear: privatization doesn’t save money. Taxpayers never see a savings. (Remember, CUPE members are taxpayers, too!) All privatization does is shift public money into private hands.

In other words, the employer is demanding that workers sign a contract that will put them out of work. In effect they would be signing their own termination notice! Would you want to do that?

The Zoo workers have no choice but to say NO, and to defend the benefits they’ve won and protected for 20 years. Every union member — and every working person — should support them.

Ask yourselves, too, which is better for animals — to be cared for by a stable, consistent number of full-time staff who are paid decently for their work, or a rotation of part-time, minimum-wage workers who invest little in their jobs, because the employer invests nothing in them? Decent jobs for Zoo workers mean decent conditions for animals.

If you can get to the CUPE 1600 picket line, the workers will truly appreciate your effort. Picket information is here.

Whether or not you can visit a picket line, we can all email the Zoo Board of Governors, and demand they offer their workers a fair contract.

It doesn’t have to be anything long and involved. “I love the Toronto Zoo and I want Zoo workers to have a fair contract! We want good jobs in our communities and fair deals for the workers who provide our services!” is enough. Contact information is below.