Mayor Tory is calling for striking Toronto Zoo workers and management to return to the negotiating table but is stopping short of personally intervening in the ongoing labour dispute.

Negotiations between the zoo and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1600 broke down in the early hours of last Thursday morning after the sides were unable to come to an agreement prior to a midnight strike deadline.

The zoo was then shuttered at the start of business on Thursday as about 400 workers walked off the job and set up picket lines outside the entrance.

Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Tory said he is hopeful that the sides will return to the negotiating table but rejected a suggestion that he could get involved.

“I would like to see them go back to the table as soon as they can but I leave that decision to them because I think the last thing you need is politicians interfering,” he said. “I can’t force them back to the table but I will certainly be keeping an eye on this as we get towards the end of this week and see if there is any encouragement I can offer in that regard.”

Representatives for CUPE Local 1600 have previously said that the main sticking point in their negotiations with management concerns several new provisions which would imperil the job security of its members.

The city, meanwhile, has said that any negotiated settlement must mimic the deals reached with unions representing the city’s two biggest unions – CUPE Local 79 and CUPE Local 416.

“As I have said before, the balancing act with this and any other labour negotiation is to achieve that balance between making sure the public is fairly treated as the people who finance the operations of the zoo and contribute $12 million of their hard-earned money to keep it going and making sure our employees are fairly treated. These employees right now are very well treated in terms of their compensation and benefits,” Tory said.