The head of one of Toronto's unions says a lockout is almost a certainty in January because the city wants to target so-called jobs for life provisions.

"The city's initial offer is a direct attack on city employees," said Mark Ferguson, president of Local 416 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

The union and city exchanged bargaining positions on Oct. 19, and Ferguson said Toronto wants to eliminate job protection measures, commonly called jobs for life.

The provisions were first granted by former mayor Mel Lastman and strengthened under David Miller.

According to the collective agreement, if garbage collection is contracted out to an external vendor, full-time garbage workers with 10 or more years of experience would still have to be employed in some other capacity by the city at the same rate of pay.

Ferguson, who represents 5,500 city employees including solid waste and parks and recreation staff, said attacking those clauses is untenable.

However, Doug Holyday, deputy mayor and chair of the employee and relations board, said the city wants a good deal for taxpayers, not a lockout.

"The union has been floating this lockout notion for quite some time and it really does make me concerned about their position on what's going to take place," Holyday said, adding that he doesn't think the two sides should be "bargaining through the media."

The city's unions could also strike but Ferguson said they, too, want to reach a deal.

The earliest any labour action could be taken is Jan. 19.

The two sides will meet again next week.