LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — With city workers threatening to go on strike, city officials sought approval to hire outside contractors to pick up solid waste and perform other critical jobs.

The Board of Public Works agreed Monday to allow the Bureau of Sanitation to seek approval to quickly hire contractors in the event that sanitation workers walk off the job.

Bureau of Sanitation Director Enrique Zaldivar requested the authority to negotiate with contractors who can “help us maintain operations” to continue treating waste water and picking up solid waste.

SEIU Local 721, one of the unions engaged in contract negotiations with the city, announced last week that its members voted to allow a strike. The Coalition of Los Angeles City Unions, which includes SEIU Local 721, have extended mediations to Tuesday.

Public Works Commissioner Matt Szabo, who is part of the bargaining discussions with city workers, said he hoped contractors will not be needed to perform sanitation jobs.

“We are hopeful and confident that cooler heads will prevail. There’s quite a bit at stake,” he said.

“This action today we have to take because we are ultimately responsible to the residents of this city, and when there are messages out there that say that a strike could be called at any time, we have to be prepared for that,” Szabo said.

He added that “this is not a signal that we believe we will ever need to use it,” and he believes “we can move forward in a productive way and avoid any work stoppage working together.”

City leaders last year said they were looking to hold the line on wages for city workers and to ask employees to pay a greater percent of their healthcare costs.

Some trash drivers workers walked off the job earlier this month in what SEIU Local 721 characterized as an “un-sanctioned” job action. About 60 percent of workers did not show up for work on one of the days, delaying trash service for about a week.

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