CATS, transportation officials reach deal, avoid strike

by: Torie Wells Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The thousands of people who rely on Charlotte Area Transit System buses can breathe a sigh of relief.

On Monday afternoon, the drivers union and the management company reached an agreement on their contract, avoiding a strike.

The deal came just in time. The city of Charlotte tells Channel 9 that it was about to send a message out to the public that bus service would be significantly cut back Tuesday. Now, that's not the case. Tuesday morning, buses will be running normally.

Around 1 p.m. Monday, United Transportation Union - SMART, Local 1715 and Transit Management of Charlotte came to an agreement.

"We're going to do our jobs. We are not going to stop service," said Kevin Moss, the general chairman for UTU-SMART, Local 1715.

The union says it received what it asked for, like raises and a compromise over seniority and routes.

The union and management company released a joint statement Monday saying both are glad a strike was averted.

"A lot of the bus operators here, we have families as well; we know the impact it can cause on the people in the community," said Moss.

"This would have had a significant impact," said Carolyn Flowers, the CEO of CATS.

North Carolina state law keeps the city from being part of the negotiations, so it had to sit and wait. Monday morning it was putting together a backup plan.

Flowers said that about half of the 600 drivers are in the union, but CATS didn't know how many nonunion drivers would be at work. It was hoping if a picket happened, it could run about 40-50 percent of the city's routes, similar to a Sunday schedule.

"This has been a period of difficult negotiations but we ended up with an agreement that's within our financial parameters," said Flowers.

CATS officials said it is glad the management company and the union came up with a deal that is in-budget.

Channel 9 was told there will be a formal vote on the deal with the drivers on Thursday.