Staff have walked off the job at Taronga Zoo calling for a fix to ongoing payroll problems, but it could be families who end up paying the price.
The snap strike was called at Taronga’s Dubbo zoo on Thursday morning, with threats of another strike to come at the NSW Central West and Sydney sites next month.
The next strike will be a 24 hour stoppage on Wednesday, December 7, and will impact Taronga’s ability to remain operational and could force families out for the day.
Taronga has 880 staff across the two zoos, and for 18 months they have been underpaid, had leave entitlements go missing, and overtime shifts not paid and the union says they’ve “had a gutful”.
Not only have staff been underpaid, but they’ve incurred late fees from their banks and landlords due to insufficient funds, Australian Workers Union NSW Branch Secretary Tony Callinan.
“Our members tell me they want to be paid on time and for the hours they’ve worked,” he said.
“They want their leave balances rectified, they want to be consulted as part of that process, and they want the new pay system finalised this year.”
They blame the problems on a new payroll system introduced 18 months ago, and on this the zoo agrees.
Taronga Zoo provided a written statement to ACM and in it admitted staff had not been paid correctly.
“Taronga acknowledges technical issues with a new payroll, time and attendance system has affected some pay and leave entitlements, and recognises the impacts this situation is having on our people,” it read.
“We are committed to resolving these issues as quickly as possible, and ensuring our people are paid correctly.”
Mr Callinnan said previous negotiations between the union and zoo had failed, and the AWU is now calling for a meeting to be held prior to December 2 to “start the process of fixing our ongoing, chronic payroll issues”.
If the AWU’s demands are not met, its members will hold a 24 hour strike on Wednesday, December 7. It will also encourage the four other unions who represent zoo staff at the two sites to back them and also go on strike.
Taronga’s statement said it was working on a remediation plan for the remainder of the year to address priority areas, while also developing a comprehensive plan to resolve any remaining issues.
“Taronga values our people and their contributions to our vision greatly, and we sincerely apologise to those employees who have been affected,” it said.