The city surprised its two unions Friday with a news release announcing the start of the collective bargaining process.
The presidents of both CUPE Local 399 representing outside workers and CUPE Local 1048 representing inside workers said it was unusual for the city to alert the media before discussions between the two sides have taken place.
"We're a little bit disappointed with how it's happened so far," CUPE 399 president Gary Campbell said. "We haven't met with the employer yet and set any dates and they've gone ahead and released something in the media already."
CUPE 1048 president Janet Bigelow said she was "totally disappointed and surprised" by the tactic.
Contracts for both unions expired on Dec. 31.
In the news release the city said it expects the collective bargaining process could be challenging due to the complex challenge of meeting service level expectations, maintaining and replacing assets and avoiding a large tax increase.
The city could be jumping to conclusions, according to Bigelow, because the unions have yet to present an offer.
"It's never been a challenge before," she said. "How do they know it's going to be challenging when they don't even know what we want?"
Although things appear to have gotten off on the wrong foot in this round of negotiations, Campbell is optimistic a deal can be reached without too much consternation.
"[Relations between the city and the union] always been good in the past, but in 2012 it was a little bit stressed due to the core review and because there were 28 layoffs earlier on in that year," Campbell said. "That's typical labour relations, it has its ups and downs and I don't think it's going to reflect in the bargaining. We're going to continue to bargain in good faith and try to move forward and come up with something that's fair for everyone."
Campbell said his union is almost ready to get to the table, but there are still a few things that need to be ratified before talks can begin. Bigelow said she wasn't sure when formal negotiations would start.