One bus leaves as another loads passengers at the GET Downtown Transit Center in this October 2012 file photo.

The Golden Empire Transit bus strike officially ended late Sunday afternoon --and bus service is expected to resume Tuesday -- after union employees approved a three-year contract.

The union voted 158-29 to accept the GET board's latest proposal, ending the more than five-week-old strike.

The new three-year contract provides for a 3 percent raise the first year, followed by 2 1/2 percent and 2 percent raises in succeeding years.

"These guys are ready to go back to work," said Chester Suniga, principal officer of Teamsters Local 517. "It's not exactly what we were looking for (but) a lot of things got resolved."

The GET board of directors voted Saturday to accept the agreement contingent on the union approving it.

GET's management team will meet at 9 a.m. Monday, an agency spokeswoman said Sunday.

Although in an emailed statement the spokeswoman, Gina Hayden, wrote the board would decide Monday when buses would resume service, union officials said Sunday GET Chief Executive Officer Karen King told them service would resume Tuesday.

All 257 bus drivers, mechanics and servicers, had been on strike since July 15, cutting off service for an estimated 20,000 passengers.

With most Bakersfield and Kern County schools set to reopen, and the large number of Bakersfield College and Cal State Bakersfield students who depend on bus service, a continued strike would have caused even more widespread disruptions.

Suniga emerged Sunday at 6:10 p.m. from the first-floor room at the Clarion Hotel where the voting had taken place since 6 a.m. and beamed, "We did it."

On Aug. 14 the union had overwhelmingly voted down the previous GET board proposal, 161-19.

It was one of several contract proposals GET had offered as a way to end the strike.

The union's original request was for a 4 percent wage increase for each year of the contract and a gradual end to the district's two-tier classification of bus drivers.

The stalemate had dragged on so long the City Council called its two appointed GET board members -- Howard Silver and Norris Ledbetter -- to appear at last week's meeting, and considered two motions to replace them. Neither motion passed.

It was the second GET strike in 34 years. The first one in 1980 lasted more than two months.

Suniga said Sunday union members were raring to get to work.

"They should have these buses rolling tonight," he said.

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