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A TARC bus on S. Sixth Street near Muhammad Ali Boulevard on Nov. 3, 2022.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Management with the Transit Authority of River City and leaders of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1447, which represents TARC bus drivers and maintenance workers, have reached a "tentative labor agreement."

The 2-year deal includes a 6% wage increase during the first year, followed by a 4% increase the second year, TARC said in a news release late Thursday evening. The agency would also continue paying 95% of employees' health care premiums. 

The union and the agency have been at odds over wages, working conditions and other considerations.

Last month, TARC employees "overwhelmingly" voted to authorize a strike if negotiations with the agency didn't improve. At the time of that vote, ATU President Lillian Brents said wages were so low that employees were working 60- to 70-hour weeks to pay their bills.

On Sept. 9, 97% of workers voted to reject TARC's contract deal, calling the offer "insulting."

In a news release Thursday, TARC said other terms of the tentative deal include the addition of a Juneteenth holiday, CDL reimbursement, increased instructor pay and increases in tool, shoe and uniform allowances.

Both TARC and the union "agreed that language related to the extra board, TARC's day-to-day process of covering unassigned work, will remain unchanged in the contract." 

A TARC spokesperson said language "referring to the cost of living adjustments" had been removed from the contract "as it is not applicable to the current contract."

Brents will present the tentative deal to union members. The agreement will then be put to a vote on Nov. 30. If members vote to approve the agreement, it will be presented to TARC's board for approval on Dec. 13.

"Thereafter, TARC management will work to ensure that raises and back pay are issued as soon as possible," TARC said in a statement.

"We are fully committed to recommending this agreement to our Board of Directors and feel confident they will accept it," TARC Executive Director Carrie Butler said in a news release. "I'm hopeful that we can put this new contract into place and move forward in a spirit of cooperation to provide safe, reliable, and convenient transportation service across Greater Louisville."

Pushing for a "fair and just contract," employees have held rallies amid negotiations over the last several months. The ATU said in a statement Thursday that the agreement was "strong," and averts a potential strike as the holidays approach.

"This has been a long fight and while there is more work to be done, we have negotiated a tentative agreement that we can present to the members of our union and recommend a 'yes' vote," Brents said in a statement Thursday evening. "Our members have fought hard for a contract that meets their needs and we believe this contract does that."

If union members were to reject the agreement, negotiations would continue.

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