Charlotte bus drivers avoid strike, overwhelmingly ratify contract with pay increases

Alex Slitz/

Charlotte bus drivers ratified a contract Saturday that provides wage increases, more pay for working at night and additional holidays, among other things, according to the union representing the drivers.

The vote, which succeeded by a margin of 20-1, means any chance for a strike is off.

The new contract calls for “significant” wage increases that are retroactive to July 1, 2022, according to a post online from SMART Local 1715. SMART Union represents Charlotte bus drivers.

It was not immediately clear how big the increase was. The contract also calls for an increase to the pension cap.

Union officials could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday.

The contract also includes double-time pay for holidays. Workers also will now get Juneteenth as a holiday.

In the union’s post, Calvin Studivant, SMART Transportation Division Bus Department Vice President, thanked members of the negotiations committee “for their hard work and tireless effort” to deliver a contract members would accept.

Last month, drivers had reached a tentative agreement with RATP Dev USA, the company that employs the city’s bus drivers. At the time, the company said “good faith negotiations” over the past several weeks resulted in “a strong offer” to SMART Local 1715

Attempts to reach RATP Dev USA were not successful Sunday.

About the Charlotte contract vote

This weekend’s vote comes after months-long negotiations between union members and RATP Dev. Union members voted in January to authorize a strike.

Light rail, street car and paratransit operators are employed by the city and not represented by SMART Union or included in the tentative contract with RATP Dev.

Charlotte buses move more than 18,000 people on the average weekday, according to a November ridership report.

But driver shortages led the Charlotte Area Transit System to trim the frequency of some bus routes in the summer. Vacant positions, employee absences, scheduled vacations and days off all affected CATS transit system schedules, officials said.