Dubbo Zoo Workers Suspend Strike Action, Will Keep Watch On Promised Reforms


Workers at the iconic Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo in the west of NSW have called off a planned strike action for next week, after assurances from zoo management that chronic pay issues will finally be resolved.

It follows a snap stop work meeting for several hours in mid-November.

According to the Australian Workers Union (AWU), maintenance workers at the zoo have endured underpayments, late payments and consistent problems with their leave entitlements and allowances for the past 18 months.

The problems began after Taronga – which also runs the iconic zoo in Sydney – sacked their payroll staff, and replaced them with off-site contractors.

A 24-hour strike action by around 40 maintenance workers had been planned for next Wednesday, but zoo management have met with the AWU and committed to solve the payroll issues by the end of January 2023. AWU delegates from the zoo will also meet with KPMG representatives in a bid to resolving the payroll issues.

Tony Callinan, Australian Workers Union NSW Branch Secretary said the result was a win not just for workers, but for families planning to visit the world class zoo.

“[There] used to be a pay officer on site so payroll issues could be solved in person, but zoo management chose to punt that person and introduce a new computer system which wasn’t fit for purpose,” Mr Callinan said.

“Our members want to be sure they’ve paid for the work they’ve done, their superannuation contributions are being paid and their leave balances are correct.”

While the AWU is taking the action, New Matilda understands workers across the board are affected by the changes.

Mr Callinan said the union and its delegates would keep a watching brief on the issue, and that members would “down tools again” if the matter wasn’t satisfactorily resolved as promised.

One of Australia’s largest zoos, Western Plains has been in operation since 1977, when it was opened in part to provide more room for larger animals from Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.

It spans a whopping 741 acres, displays more than 1,000 animals and employs several hundred people.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.