01/17/2013 11:03 EST | Updated 03/19/2013 05:12 EDT

Tentative deal heads off looming transit strike in Greater Victoria

VICTORIA - Commuters across Greater Victoria have dodged a threatened full-scale transit strike slated to begin next Tuesday.

BC Transit and the Canadian Auto Workers Union Local 333 have reached a tentative three-year contract, retroactive to March 2012.

The pact, which has not yet been ratified, came late Wednesday afternoon, after BC Transit dropped demands to test smaller shuttle buses, known as vicinity buses, in the Victoria area.

CAW officials worried vicinity bus drivers would be paid less and require less training, so the two sides have agreed the smaller buses will stay off Victoria streets for the remaining 14-months of the new contract.

Limited job action began last October and Local 333 says those measures have ended, but officials warn it could take several days to return schedules to normal as union members work through the backlog of buses needing maintenance.

BC Transit spokeswoman Meribeth Burton says ridership has dropped two per cent across the Capital Regional District since the labour dispute began. (CFAX)