CATS union reaches tentative agreement to avoid bus drivers strike

The union will vote on the agreement on Feb. 4.
A strike would have posed a big problem for the 30,000 people who rely on the buses every day.
Published: Jan. 29, 2023 at 11:28 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 31, 2023 at 4:43 AM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte Area Transit System operators have reached a tentative agreement to avoid a strike after months of labor contract negotiations.

This is a tentative agreement on a contract and there’s still a vote to come. However, it is a big step following three rejected labor contracts and months of negotiations.

A strike would have posed a big problem for the 30,000 people who rely on the buses every day.

CATS drivers say they’ve been pushing for better pay, health insurance and improved safety measures.

CATS BUS INVESTIGATIONS: Complete coverage here

Earlier this month, the SMART union that represents CAT employees voted to authorize a strike if an agreement could not be reached. That meant CATS would be down drivers and routes for a period of time.

The city worked out several backup plans in case of a strike, such as suspending all express routes.

Details of the tentative agreement have not been released. Overnight, WBTV reached out to the union that represents the employees as well at RATP Dev, the company that runs the bus system.

The agreement not to strike is only tentative. On Saturday, Feb. 4, the union will vote on the potential deal that could avert a strike.

Talks of a strike earlier this year had bus riders worried their routes would be affected.

“I wouldn’t be able to go see my mom in the hospital,” rider Leday Williams said. “Yeah, it would just mess up a lot of things. And you know I’m not really a walker.”

There was a more optimistic tone by late Monday night.

“I’m just glad it’s over with,” rider Dorian Lowe said. “I need to get on the bus when I need to go to work.”

The tentative agreement comes after several complaints of low pay and an unsafe workplace.

“There’s been incidents I heard where a bus driver got killed not that long ago, and since then they’ve been kind of on toes about everything, so I don’t blame them,” Williams said.

Complaints got understandably louder after that bus driver, Ethan Rivera, was shot and killed driving his route in February of 2022.

Related: “We grieve with his family”: Shooting death of CATS bus driver linked to road rage

Spirit Yassine, who takes the bus from school, says she’s relieved a strike is off the table but understands how it got to this point.

“I’ve been in a job where it’s like you’re taking care of people, they yell at you, they scream at you, there’s drunk people who are really dangerous so I agree with them,” Yassine said. “They have the right to do what they need to do to be noticed.”