YAKIMA, Wash. — After several months of contract negotiations, Yakima has reached a tentative deal with its transit union.

The three-year contract addresses the main sticking point — wages — while creating long-term savings for the city, according to City Manager Tony O’Rourke.

Exact details on the contract, including wages, were not disclosed. O’Rourke said union rank and file had not yet seen specifics. Union officials did not return phone calls.

The union’s 56 members, whose contract expired at the end of last year, were paid about 5 percent below the average in comparable Washington cities, he said.

O’Rourke has previously said that Yakima can’t afford to meet the union’s demand, which he described as annual 5 percent wage increases for three years.

But city officials were worried the transit union, which is part of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, would force the city to binding contract arbitration, which officials expected would result in higher labor costs than the current deal.

“It’s either we address it or the arbitrator tells us to,” O’Rourke said.

The tentative agreement saves the city some money by giving out cash payments in lieu of cost-of-living increases, he said.

Union members will vote on the contract by July 15, and if approved, Yakima City Council will vote on it at the council’s July 16 meeting.

A first-year bus driver’s annual base pay is $33,550, which doesn’t include benefits, overtime and other compensation.

While transit workers’ wage rates have been flat the last three years, they’ve risen by 19 percent since 2003, according to city records.

That is the second smallest increase out of the city’s 12 collective bargaining units, which had an average negotiated wage increase of 25.1 percent, according to city records. The smallest increase went to unionized office workers.

• Dan Catchpole can be reached at 509-759-7850 or dcatchpole@yakimaherald.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/dcatchpole.