By: Lucia Yglesias
The strike has ended and the Toronto Zoo will open its doors again on Thursday. After a month of labour disruption, the zoo is expecting a busy summer to make up lost revenues and attendance.
More than 400 employees walked the picket line since May 11 to protect their jobs and demand quality animal care.
Last Monday, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1600 and the Toronto Zoo Board of Management ratified a four-year collective agreement and unionized staff returned to work on Tuesday.
Jennifer Tracey, the zoo’s senior director of marketing, communications and partnerships, said the number of lost revenues is unknown, but they are hopeful to get back on track soon.
“We are looking forward to welcoming back our zoo members as well as zoo guests, and school visitors before the school year ends,” she said.
Christine McKenzie, president of CUPE 1600, stated in an official statement the union “fully intends to hold the zoo to their commitments and to hold them to account if they fail to live up to their promises.”
McKenzie also stated they are looking forward to return to work but their employer “should be under no illusions that this was an easy decision to take.”
“This was a month of struggle, for the right reasons, and I am incredibly proud of what our members have achieved,” the local president said.
To encounter the impact of the strike, Tracey announced that a two-month extension has been given to current zoo members who purchased annual passes and were directly impacted by the closure.
“If you are a zoo member, you buy it for a whole year,” Tracey said. “Our zoo members tend to visit quite often, so as a gesture and as a thank you for their ongoing support and patience we decided to do that.”
Zoo camps and school visits that didn’t ask for a full refund have been contacted to reschedule their visits. The zoo and the city are still trying to determine how to cover those who purchased City Passes.
One of the attractions zoo officials hope will boost finances lost during the strike will be the pandas and a number of other newborn giant cats.
It’s the pandas, however, that are expected to be the zoo’s biggest pull again because they’re leaving in March to the Calgary Zoo.
“This is our last summer we have with the giant pandas, we are also hopeful a lot of people will want to come out and say goodbye to them,” Tracey said.
The other attraction are the new born cheetah and leopard cubs who will make their appearance late summer and early fall.
“People are very anxious to see them,” Tracey said. “They are with their moms and we don’t want to disturb that. The two clouded leopards are in intensive care and continue to be hand-raised by health and wildlife staff.”
She said conservation programs and areas were not affected by the work stoppage. Indeed, the birth of three Vancouver Island marmot pups, one of the most critically endangered animals in the world and Canada’s most endangered mammal, occurred at the zoo during the strike.