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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -
A transit deal has thousands of CATS workers and riders breathing a sigh of relief. Negotiations that have been going on for months ended Monday afternoon.
Without a deal, bus drivers in Charlotte would have walked off the job for midnight. A tentative agreement was reached that avoids a bus operator strike.
70,000 commuters in the Charlotte area rely on a bus to get where they have to go.
"CATS please CATS do not go on the strike," said Jeffrey Bines, a bus rider.
And it looks like the bus operators and the management company negotiating their contract heard those commuters pleas.
"It's been very tough but we managed to work out all the details," said Kevin Moss, , the head of the United Transportation Union Local #1715.
Moss said the last detail had to do with how bus operators picked their routes between full-time workers and part-time workers. Early Monday morning it wasn't clear if that would be the sticking point that would push union members to strike.
"We've talked about it going on 24 hours now," said John Bartosiewicz of Transit Management of Charlotte.
By law CATS cannot negotiate contracts. Transit Management of Charlotte was at the negotiating table for six months. And said they were preparing for a strike since the union announced it after a vote Saturday. A strike could have begun at midnight Tuesday. But a compromise was reached Monday afternoon.
"We came together with a solution where fixed operators, full-time would bid first and if there is any work that a part-time bus operator have we can exchange work days. That was a solution to our problem," said Moss.
"We have a deal," said Bartosiewicz, "It's fully executed."
The deal is scheduled to be voted on my union members Thursday.
"So, I'm pretty sure the strike vote did put a lot of pressure on both ends," said Moss, "Cause the last thing the company and the union wants to do is disrupt the service. We don't want to do that."
CATS CEO, Carolyn Flowers said about half of the operators were in the union and they were planning for the worst.
"We were going to put out Sunday level of service that's probably about 40, 50 percent of our normal level," said Flowers.
Moss said he expects his members to accept the package on Thursday that will increase their wages by 2.3% the first two years and then 2.5% in the third year.
Flowers said the tentative agreement does fit the city's financial parameters.