St. John's city council is making contingency plans in case it fails to reach a deal with its outdoor workers, after contract negotiations broke off last week.

Those outside workers do everything from collecting trash to plowing snow, and what would happen without them is already under discussion at City Hall.

"There is a plan in place right now, and it's being refined, to provide as much of the services that we can provide, given the labour situation that occurs,” Mayor Dennis O’Keefe said.

O'Keefe says the biggest issue is pensions. The union wants to keep all employees on a defined benefit plan, while the city wants to move new hires to a defined contribution plan.

The mayor says that would have a major financial impact on the city, and workers are being offered a raise of 18 per cent over four years to make it happen.

Ed White, national CUPE representative

Ed White, a national CUPE representative, says union members would prefer a lower wage increase in order to save a defined benefit pension plan. (CBC)

"Bottom line is that without going down this route, the sustainability of the plan is not possible in the long run,” O’Keefe said.

Ed White, a national CUPE representative, told CBC News the city’s offer would mean too much uncertainty for members when they retire.

"We feel it doesn't provide adequate security for people in retirement,” White said.

“The risk shifts entirely from the city to the individual employees.”

White said the union twice offered to take a lower wage package offer if the city removed its pension proposal from the table.

Without a deal, both sides will be in a position to take job action on Sept. 18.