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Rejected CATS bus driver contract has nearly 11% raise

The main bus station uptown. The Charlotte Area Transit System has seen bus ridership decline by 75 percent since 2014.
Steve Harrison
CATS is trying to reach a new contract with its bus drivers, who officially work for a management company RATP Dev.

The contract that Charlotte bus drivers rejected Wednesday included a nearly 11% raise, but would also reduce the number of days drivers can take off without a reason.

The current contract pays first-year bus drivers about $18.80 an hour. The new proposed contract calls for new drivers to make $20.80 an hour. That’s a nearly 11% bump.

CATS drivers have automatic pay increases for each year they are employed, for six years. The top hourly wage would go from $28.00 an hour to $31 an hour — and then to just under $33 an hour in the third year of the contract.

That would equal an annual salary of nearly $69,000.

The city said that’s more money than bus drivers earn in Raleigh, Atlanta, Orlando and Richmond.

CATS bus drivers officially work for a management company RATP DEV USA, because North Carolina law doesn’t allow public employees to bargain collectively. Drivers voted to reject the city’s proposed contract Wednesday but are still on the job.

Union representatives are expected to meet with a mediator soon to try and reach an agreement.

The city’s proposed contract also has fewer days that drivers can take off without a reason. Under the current contract, drivers can take off 10 days per year without a reason. That’s in addition to their vacation time and 12 sick days.

CATS has proposed reducing the number of unexcused days to six.

CATS reduced its bus schedule last month because it doesn’t have enough drivers. It reduced service on some of its most popular routes, from buses arriving every 10 or 15 minutes to now arriving every 15, 20 or 30 minutes.

The transit system hopes to restore the service by the end of the year.

The operators who drive the streetcar and the Lynx Blue Line are city employees.

CATS and city staff are scheduled to give City Council Monday an overview of a plan to rebuild the main bus station uptown, possibly placing it underground. The station would be part of a new mixed-use development that would include offices, retail and a hotel.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.