Everyone talks about the bargaining table in the Toronto’s civic workers’ strike, but few people — including many of the negotiators — ever see it.

When talks began early this year, both locals met city negotiators face to face — the outside workers at the former East York civic centre, the inside workers at Metro Hall.

The two sides have barely met in the same room since the strike began.

Mayor David Miller’s decision to go public with the city’s offer 10 days ago incensed union officials, who regarded the move as an attempt to bypass them and go directly to the members. Now, when the city has a proposal, it is carried by a mediator to another room where the union stays and they then review it.

Keeping the two sides in separate quarters for the most part is probably the best tactic for mediators at the moment, says Alan Levy, a professor of labour relations at Manitoba’s Brandon University.

Levy says the city made a misstep and probably lengthened the strike when it went over the heads of union negotiators by releasing its offer directly to union members.

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