CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – On Tuesday, Charlotte’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission met for the first time since CATS bus operators threatened to go on strike.
The SMART Union, which represents the bus operators, and RATP Dev, the contractor that supervises the Charlotte Area Transportation System, met with federal mediators and have reportedly reached a tentative agreement.
“The main thing to remember about collective bargaining negotiations is that it’s not over until everything is resolved,” said Joshua Flax with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which helped aid the negotiations.
After several safety incidents on buses over the past year, drivers participated in widespread callouts and now demand better wages and heightened security.
Brent Cagle is the new CATS interim CEO. He’s only been on the job since Dec. 1 and says he’s spent the past 60 days with his boots on the ground, speaking to employees who deal with the daily ins and outs of bus and rail operations.
“There are some concerns. We have some things that we could do better as management of CATS, and we’re committed to do that,” said Cagle at Tuesday’s MTC meeting. “Things like communications with our employees.”
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Though CATS is not directly involved in the ongoing contract negotiations, they say they’ve spent considerable time considering budget amendments that address some drivers’ concerns. Particularly, they’re proposing a $7 million increase in their security contract, split between the FY24 and FY25 budgets.
“We do take it as a good sign that both parties are negotiating in good faith and that they have apparently come to a tentative agreement,” said Cagle.
The union is set to vote on the tentative agreement on Feb. 4. If the vote fails, both parties must return to the drawing board.
If a strike proceeds, CATS says they have a contingency plan.