City officials have requested that the Ontario labour ministry issue a "no board report," saying contract talks with the union representing the city's outside workers have stalled.
Negotiators for the city and CUPE Local 416 have been engaged in talks for more than four months, the city said in a news release on Monday.
Typically, no board reports are issued within days if contract talks are at an impasse, starting the 17-day countdown toward a strike or lockout deadline.
Job security, wages, benefits and parental leave are outstanding issues. The city said it requested the no board report on Monday, after "much consideration" on the weekend.
"This step in the process will, the city hopes, assist both sides in achieving a fair and affordable collective agreement," the city said.
"A No Board Report starts the clock for a potential work stoppage beginning in the third week of February."
Report forces both sides 'to really negotiate,' city says
City spokesperson Brad Ross told CBC Toronto on Monday that a no board report should put pressure on both sides. He said it should take two to three days for the ministry to issue the report.
"It forces both parties to really negotiate an agreement, to reach agreement on the outstanding issues, to find a resolution to those outstanding issues so that there isn't a work stoppage. Nobody wants a work stoppage," Ross said.
"We are determined to reach a negotiated agreement with our unions, as I say, [that] is fair for our employees and one that is affordable for the people of Toronto."
Ross said the city asked the ministry to appoint a conciliation officer in late December and both sides met over five days since then with that officer.
"Unfortunately, we were unable to reach agreement on those issues," he said.
City trying to contract out services, union says
In a news release on Monday, the union said the request from the city means both sides will be in a strike or lockout position by Feb. 27.
"The city wants a contract that creates two-tiered job security provisions, and paves the way for privatization and contracting out of services that the people of Toronto rely on," Eddie Mariconda, president of CUPE Local 416, said in the release.
"We're the ones trying to get a deal here. All along, we have been reasonable in trying to get a deal that protects services and respects the work our members do. Our proposals are affordable and sustainable, which is what the city claims they want."
The union said it has begun to prepare for a strike or lockout but believes a deal is still possible.
"We're not the ones who walked away from the table. We are available to negotiate 24/7," Mariconda added.
The contract between the city and the union local, which represents 5,000 outside workers, expired on Dec. 31, 2019.
Its members work in such areas as animal services, parks and recreation outside, water, solid waste management, paramedic services and community housing.
The city said it is committed to reaching an agreement.
"The City of Toronto remains committed to negotiating a collective agreement that is fair and affordable and will continue to engage with the union to achieve that goal," the city said.
Talks are continuing with CUPE Local 79, the city's inside workers, the city added.