Zoo Workers Get Ballots Detailing Proposed Contract

San Diego County Business Editor

Ballots detailing a tentative three-year contract that calls for a wage freeze but keeps in place employer-paid health benefits have been mailed to unionized workers at the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, according to the state labor mediator who coordinated the labor negotiations.

The workers--employed by the Zoological Society of San Diego--have until June 30 to either ratify or reject the pact, hammered out by management and officials of Teamsters Union Local 481, which represents 922 of the society's 1,289 workers.

The tentative agreement was reached after a 16-hour negotiation session Monday, which was coordinated by state labor mediator David Hart. The state official was brought in after weeks of talks had left labor and management "miles apart," according to zoo sources.

The proposed contract calls for a wage freeze in the first year of the contract, with possible pay increases in the second and third years if the society's revenues outpace expenses by at least 15%, according to sources familiar with the tentative agreement.

Deficit Reporter

Last year, the Zoological Society reported a $500,000 combined operating deficit, primarily because of $1.6 million in red ink generated at the Wild Animal Park in North San Diego County. The park has reported operating deficits in 13 of its 14 years.

The society had an accumulated operating deficit of $3.2 million at year-end 1985. Such deficits are offset from a special depreciation fund otherwise used for property and equipment replacement.

Initially, society officials had asked workers to accept an across-the-board pay cut of $1 per hour, random drug testing and co-payment of annual health benefits, valued at about $215.

Labor officials reportedly countered with a 50-cent-per-hour pay increase, an increase in the society's employee pension fund, no drug testing and full payment of health benefits by management.

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