The next 48 hours could determine whether city buses will run Monday morning.
Negotiating teams for the city and the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents 160 local members, are heading to a conciliation meeting Thursday morning to try and reach a deal over wages and try to avoid a strike that would shut down bus service as of 12:01 a.m. Monday.
ATU Local 966 president Shelia Kivisto said the talks will last until noon on Saturday if need be.
That deadline will give the public and union members enough time to prepare if the two sides can't make a deal.
"I'm really really trying to be optimistic that there's going to be a deal," Kivisto said before heading into the meeting at the Victoria Inn Thursday. "But I also realistically think that it is time for us to stand up for what we truly believe we deserve."
While some agreements have been reached between the city and union, wages and some benefits continue to be at issue. Kivisto said Thunder Bay drivers are the second-lowest paid in the province, next to Cornwall's 28 members. Drivers in the city continue to fall further behind.
"We've been backed into a corner and we have to come out swinging," she said.
Drivers have been without a contract since June of 2012. They voted 99 per cent in favour of job action in October.