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Toronto Zoo and CUPE reach tentative contract settlement

The Toronto Zoo and a union representing about 400 workers have reached a tentative deal to avoid a strike or a lockout.

The zoo and CUPE Local 1600 had faced a deadline for a deal of 12:01 a.m., but had to continued bargaining past the deadline until an agreement was reached early Friday morning.

No details of the agreement have been released and the union has not yet indicated when a ratification vote will be held.

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The union had said cuts to changes to sick pay and benefits, job security and bereavement leave were among the key issues.

A strike or lockout at the zoo would have jeopardized next month's unveiling of a highly-anticipated exhibit starring two giant pandas on loan from China.

Union president Christine McKenzie had said that while the two sides were "miles apart" as recently as Wednesday, major progress had been made since then.

McKenzie said the union represents many zoo staff who work directly with animals who worry about the impact a job dispute could have on animal care.

"We love it, so not being able to take care of them when we're the ones that do that every day, of course it's concerning to us," McKenzie said.

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