CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Eyewitness News has uncovered hundreds of CATS bus drivers threatening to walk off the job.
"We are prepared to strike," said Kevin Moss, General Chairman United Transportation Union Local 1715.
It is a decision that could impact more than 80,000 people who ride the bus every day in Charlotte.
"It's not about money, it's about building morale and doing what is right," Moss said.
In a Channel 9 exclusive, Eyewitness News anchor Erica Bryant learned hundreds of city bus drivers are so frustrated by working conditions they are calling for a potential work-stoppage.
Moss speaks for and represents more than 600 CATS bus drivers.
He said his union members have reached a breaking point in negotiations with Transportation Management of Charlotte, the private company that operates the city's bus service.
Drivers and the company started contract negotiations in July and they are deadlocked.
Now, a federal mediator has been called in to help.
"We've brought these concerns to the company on numerous occasions and our concerns have fallen on deaf ears," said Moss.
Some of the drivers' concerns include:
- Drivers with seniority want their pick of preferred schedules, routes and days off
- Some full-time drivers may be forced to go part time -- losing benefits.
- Some driving during their work day is not compensated even though the union attorney said it should be under federal law.
"When that comes into play most often is when employees are required to travel from job site to job site throughout a particular shift and if that is the case, then they are entitled for that travel time," said Michael Harman, the attorney for the union.
City officials told Channel 9 they want management and labor to work toward an agreement, but they said the city's hands are tied.
State law prevents the city from engaging in collective bargaining, and that is why the management is outsourced to the private company, TMOC.
Channel 9 contacted the chief negotiator for TMOC, John Bartosiewicz.
He said part of the agreement during negotiations is that there is no comment outside of the bargaining table, but he believes the two sides can come to terms.
"We want to be able to continue to serve the people of Mecklenburg County," Moss said.
Moss said he and his fellow drivers are hopeful too.
"You're in the middle of negotiations, why not let that play out?" Bryant asked.
"It's very important for us to bring it to the public, because if you live in Mecklenburg County, you are an investor in CATS and you should be aware of what is going on that may cause a work stoppage," Moss said.
"So you are prepared to walk off the job if these things are not resolved?" Bryant asked.
"We don't want to put the general public in a situation that hinders them from going to work and their day to day affairs, but yes we are prepared to strike," Moss said.
The drivers said their requests were dropped from previous contracts and they want them reinstated.
Their contract expires Monday.
The drivers must notify TMOC, the city and the public 48 hours in advance if they intend to strike.
Both sides meet with the federal mediator Friday.
Channel 9 will stay on top of this story and bring you updates as they become available.
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