by: Mark Becker Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Talks have broken down between the city and Charlotte bus drivers over a new contract.
The two sides said they're close but now the can't agree on whether to get an arbitrator involved, and so the union has scheduled a strike vote for Saturday.
The impasse comes less than three days before the buses could stop rolling.
The man negotiating for management said they've agreed to more than two dozen proposals from the union, but there are three sticking points he wants an arbitrator to settle: How much paid travel time drivers are entitled to, how much seniority plays into the scheduling of full time and part time drivers and the money.
“We reached an impasse with the Union on Tuesday, and we’ve now offered the union an opportunity to break that impasse by entering into binding arbitration on the limited number of items that are still open,” said John Bartosiewicz, chief negotiator for Transit Management of Charlotte, the company that employs the bus drivers.
Management is proposing a three year package with 2.3 percent raises each of the first two years, and 2.5 percent the third year. He said the union wants the 2.5 percent in the first year, a change that would cost cats about $100,000.
“We’re in agreement on everything except two-tenths of one percent,” Bartosiewicz said.
Union Chairman Kevin Moss said their biggest issue is making sure drivers with seniority don't lose the right to choose schedules and routes, but he doesn't believe an arbitrator is the way to decide that.
"We just want a fair contract. We're this close, we're this close," Moss said.
Close might not be good enough for the tens of thousands of people who rely on the buses every day.
"They need to come together like adults and try to work it out. It's like a miniature version of the federal government closing down," said bus rider Robert Thompson.
The bus drivers' union has to give the city 48 hours before they go on strike.
To see more local news stories, click here.