Exactly two months after it furloughed or laid off roughly 30 percent of employees deemed not essential to its core operations, the Chicago Zoological Society announced on June 5 that it was permanently terminating the equivalent of 56 full-time employees, which included both filled and unfilled positions.
In a press release issued Friday evening, officials pointed to “the extended and state-mandated temporary closure of Brookfield Zoo driven by COVID-19 health concerns” as the reason for the latest round of layoffs.
“All decisions were rooted in concern for the long-term sustainability of the organization at a time when the Chicago Zoological Society is facing unprecedented and unanticipated pressures,” the society’s statement said. “These pressures resulted in difficult decisions to scale back operations to better align with state reopening guidance.”
The layoffs were effective as of June 6.
Union employees laid off at this time will remain on the recall list for one year, per the collective bargaining agreement the society has with Teamsters Local 727, which filed an unfair labor practice complaint after the society announced furloughs in April.
A reopening date has not been announced, but when the gates swing open, visitors can expect new protocols and more controlled access to the grounds. The Landmark has learned that the zoo will employ a timed ticketing system, where all guests, both members and non-members, will need to purchase tickets online and reserve a time to visit.
Such a system will limit the number of visitors to the zoo, particularly during the usually very busy summer months. Until the state moves to the final phase of the governor’s Restore Illinois plan, it’s unlikely the zoo would operate as it had in the past.
“We value the commitment and hard work of every one of our talented employees,” the society’s statement said. “However, like so many other employers across the nation who depend on customers, these difficult decisions were necessary. We continue to assure the continued care and welfare of the animals in our care, as well as the safety of our guests, staff, volunteers and members.”