SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — MTS bus and trolley operators made clear Thursday they're prepared to take to the picket lines if a deal cannot be reached on a new contract.
The drivers, along with clerical staff have been in negotiations for the past year with the transit system and mediation was set to continue Thursday following a regular meeting of the MTS Board.
President of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Lisa Fair, briefly addressed the board during public comments. She said, "Let them [MTS] know we have no intentions of giving up anything without getting something in return. And its the principle."
Fair informed the Board that drivers and clerical workers had ratified a potential strike in August and would walk if a deal could not be struck on a new contract.
About 20 minutes before the meeting began a group of some 15 transit employees rallied outside MTS headquarters, chanting, "What do we want. Contracts! When do we want it? Now!"
Rob Schupp, Director of Marketing and Communications for MTS, says both sides are actually very close to a deal.
"We've agreed in terms for a wage increase, health benefits increase, better life insurance and a bigger contribution to pensions," Schupp said.
Schupp said the agreement covers a 2.75 percent wage increase in each of the next three years. The only remaining hurdle: Agreeing on how vacation time is allotted. Neither side wanted to get into the so-called weeds on the matter but for drivers, it's among the top concerns.
"We're not getting a fair raise. And they're trying to take away some of our vacation time," said bus driver Lidia Gomez. She said she loves her job but supporting her family on her salary is tough.
"Making ends meet is really difficult. I live paycheck to paycheck," she added.
Fair tells 10News she believes the odds of seeing a strike are slim but the union members did ratify such an action if necessary by 88 percent.
The two sides will meet again Thursday. Schupp says MTS is hopeful the day will end with a new contract.