January 29, 2016 4:36 pm
Updated: January 29, 2016 5:35 pm

Strikes or lockouts possible within weeks as talks between Toronto and unions break down

File photo.

Adam Frisk / Global News
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TORONTO — A strike or lockout involving 26,000 municipal workers — including garbage collectors and snow plow drivers — could occur within weeks as negotiations between the city and two unions have deteriorated.

The city said Friday it has requested a no board report with the Ministry of Labour after contract talks with CUPE Local 416, representing 6,000 outdoor workers, broke down.

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In response, inside-workers union CUPE Local 79 also asked for the report — which if approved allows either side to initiate labour disruption after 17 days — as it bargains separately for its 20,000 members, who work at city recreation centres, community housing and public health offices, among other areas.

READ MORE: Toronto’s outside workers give union a strike mandate

Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong said the city’s request signals to negotiators on both sides that they “need to roll up their sleeves and find a deal.”

“We think this is the next step in that process.”

Asked about the possibility of roads going uncleared during the depths of winter, Minnan-Wong said that 90 per cent of the work has been contracted out.

Though he wouldn’t rule out possible disruptions, he said “contingency plans” are in place if disruption does occur.

A legal strike or lockout could take place as early as Feb. 20, he told reporters.

Both unions said they were disappointed with the city’s move for a no-board, and accused it of proposing major cuts at the bargaining table.

“It’s hard to reach a deal when you’re not in the room,” Local 416 spokesman Matt Alloway said.

“As a result of the city’s actions we are very far apart in our positions.”

Alloway said his union wants to avoid any service disruptions.

Local 79 President Tim Maguire said his union asked for the no board report in response to the city’s no-board request involving talks with Local 416.

“It’s clear that the city isn’t negotiating. We’ve been negotiating since October and the same deep cuts remain at the table.”

He called for coordinated discussions between all three parties, and said it’s still possible for deals with both unions to be struck before a possible legal a strike or lockout.

“We think if we get some momentum happening then we can negotiate collective agreements,” Maguire told reporters.

Both unions have gone without contracts since Dec. 31. Their members have given their negotiators mandates to call strikes.

According to a website set up by the city’s bargaining teams, Toronto seeks collective agreements providing “flexibility, stability and labour mobility” during this “challenging fiscal environment.”

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