The union representing CARTA bus drivers has voted to authorize its leadership to call for a strike if that is judged necessary during negotiations for a new contract.

However, both sides said they are seeking a solution as the talks continue. The drivers have been without a contract since January.

“There’s no strike planned. None of us really wants to strike,” said Herman Smith, president of the local Amalgamated Transit Union chapter.

“We’re giving the system a chance to work. We’re still reaching out toward one another,” Smith said.

Even if a strike happens, bus service will not shut down, officials said.

The ATU represents 210 workers, mostly drivers, but also some customer service staffers and dispatchers, Smith said.

They work for Veolia Transportation under a contract with the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority.

Smith declined to elaborate on the substance of the negotiations. The two sides are scheduled to get back together for more contract talks on May 30, he said.

If a strike happens, replacement drivers could be brought-in. “We’re going to continue service,” said Veolia spokeswoman Valerie Michael.

“We’re focused on negotiating. Obviously, we would like to resolve this without a strike,” she said.

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