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RTA drivers' union says they want to avoid strike, if possible

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DAYTON, Ohio (WRGT) -- A bus driver employed by RTA and represented by Local ATU sent a new contract offer to their employer Tuesday, hoping to avoid a strike.

Drivers threatened to strike in January 2017, if an agreement isn't reached.

Riders are now sounding off, asking for both parties to agree on terms so the strike doesn't affect the tens of thousands of people who use RTA services.

"If you shut down the buses then you'll have a lot of people hurt," said rider Donald Sheldon.

Sheldon told FOX 45's Kelly May he rides RTA at least every other day to doctors' appointments and to visit his kids, and would be greatly affected by a driver strike.

|| RELATED: Strike would disrupt commute for thousands

"We do not like going on strike and we do are not looking to go on strike, a strike hurts everyone," said Local ATU President Glenn Salyer.

Salyer announced Tuesday they had sent a new contract offer to RTA's CEO Mark Donaghey, hoping to settle the back-and-forth that's been ongoing since the union's last contract ended in April 2015.

"I think we're close, I think we can get there, but I think people need to be able to make change," Salyer said. "There's never such thing as a final offer, every offer is not final until it's signed."

Parties are negotiating salary and insurance benefits.

With this latest contract offer, the ATU says they are asking for their old insurance plan back, instead of the high-deductible plan on the table they say they can't afford.

"We don't want to be able to not to go to the doctor because we don't have the funds in our pocket to pay for that," said Salyer.

During an interview with FOX 45 in November, Donaghey said, "It's not like we can snap our fingers and say, 'Come on Anthem, come on United Health Care,' and do that."

Donaghey also said insurance was a bargaining chip they could not continue to negotiate.

With livelihoods on the line, Sheldon said the back-and-forth must stop.

"I think they need to wake up and open their eyes and give what the workers need," Sheldon said.

The ATU said they would continue to negotiate all the way until January if that's what it takes to prevent a strike.

They have not notified the state labor board of their intent to strike, as they are legally obligated to give a 10-day notice.

RTA said Tuesday they would not be releasing a statement about the latest contract offer on Tuesday.

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