Santa Barbara MTD bus
The labor contract of unionized Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District drivers and employees is due to expire Sept. 30. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District is trying to avoid a strike by its drivers and as many as 180 employees.

The current contract expires Sept. 30.

“Santa Barbara MTD has been engaged in the collective bargaining process for several months with Teamsters Local 186, which represents MTD’s bus operators, operations supervisors and maintenance employees,” Hillary Blackerby, marketing manager for MTD, said in a statement.

“MTD management is working diligently and in good faith to avoid any kind of work stoppage.”

Blackerby and Teamsters secretary-treasurer Abel Garcia both declined to discuss the specific areas of dispute in the contract. MTD’s board of directors plans to meet Tuesday in closed session to talk further.

“Negotiations are ongoing,” Garcia said in a statement to Noozhawk. “We do not have a comment at this time.”

MTD employees rejected proposed new agreements in early July and late August.

The district’s drivers and employees almost made a decision to strike in 2011 when MTD proposed raising the retirement age to 65 from 62. The Teamsters and MTD had to go to mediation in that standoff.

MTD, a public transit agency that provides service throughout Santa Barbara County’s South Coast, is currently overhauling its transit center on Chapala Street in downtown Santa Barbara. The renovation is expected to last through 2020.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.