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PHOENIX - A union leader said Sunday that bus drivers in the suburbs east of Phoenix have tentatively reached an agreement with a national bus company to end a four-day strike by the drivers.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433 president Bob Bean says the union reached a favorable agreement early Sunday afternoon with First Transit to end the strike and let bus service resume in time for Monday morning's commute.

Bean declined to provide details of the agreement and said union members will have to ratify the agreement within the next week and a half.

First Transit didn't immediately return calls and emails seeking comment.

Bean says the picket lines have now ended.

The agreement was reached after a 32-hour negotiating session that was aimed at resolving the dispute between the 560 drivers and the company.

Some 40 routes in Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and Tempe were shut down when the work stoppage began Thursday. Express routes from those cities to Scottsdale and Phoenix were also affected.

The routes serve some 57,000 riders daily, including many workers without cars who can't walk miles to work in the summertime heat.

First Transit took over operations July 1 after winning a three-year contract from the Valley Metropolitan Regional Transit Authority with options for seven additional years in January.

The new contract combined operations in Mesa and Tempe that serve the eastern Phoenix suburbs and involved savings of $36 million over the previous contract by operating both parts of the system together and streamlining operations. Union officials said it cut $77 million over 10 years.

Drivers have said job security has been their biggest issue with First Transit since the new transit contract would override First Transit's proposed deal with the union.

First Transit has said it also offered higher wages and lower health care costs.

In March 2012, a strike crippled bus service in metropolitan Phoenix for six days before it was settled.

Associated Press,

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