VANCOUVER -- A last-minute tentative deal reached by the bus drivers' union and Coast Mountain Bus Company has halted a major transit shutdown in Metro Vancouver.

Talks went past midnight early Wednesday morning after Unifor and CMBC returned to the bargaining table Tuesday afternoon. Unifor had previously promised a full-scale bus and SeaBus shutdown for three days if an agreement wasn't struck. 

A shutdown of that scale would have impacted about 350,000 people daily. Instead, Unifor's members were told to return to work as usual on Wednesday. 

"Transit workers stood up for one another and fought hard to get a fair contract," said Jerry Dias, Unifor's national president in a news release. "Total service disruption was a last resort, so our members are relieved that they can return to serving the public."

Mike McDaniel, president of CMBC said the deal will be a relief to the Metro Vancouver residents who rely on buses to get around. 

"We have hundreds of thousands of commuters in the region depending on the bus company and the rest of the transit system to get them where they're going," he said. "We're happy to announce that we are back doing exactly that and our commuters obviously are going to benefit from that as well as our staff."

While SeaBus and bus operations are expected to return to normal, TransLink did warn passengers that there could still be delays in the morning similar to those seen during driver and maintenance worker overtime bans.

"In terms of this morning and what we're going to see out there, the early numbers suggest around five to 10 per cent of service may be impacted because there's a little bit of time to restart the system," said TransLink spokesperson Ben Murphy on CTV Morning Live. 

"There's also a little bit of maintenance backlog, particularly in the Tri-Cities type of area so people should check transit alerts."

By lunchtime, however, buses should be running more normally Murphy said.  

Negotiations came down to the wire ahead of the planned service shutdown. The two sides shuffled in and out of the negotiating room at the Westin Bayshore hotel in downtown Vancouver more than half a dozen times over the course of the day, at one point meeting for just 90 seconds before separating again.

A tentative deal was finally reached at about 12:30 a.m., but the union has declined to share any details of the agreement until it could be ratified by members. 

The last time Metro Vancouver dealt with a full-scale bus strike was 18 years ago, and experts have noted transit ridership in the region has roughly doubled since then. Back in 2001, only about one-in-10 commuters took transit, compared to one-in-five today.

Heading into Tuesday's talks, the approximately 5,000 bus drivers and maintenance workers represented by Unifor had been without a collective agreement for eight months.

Wages were among the key sticking points in the dispute. The union has spent the last several weeks hammering home the difference in pay between bus drivers in Vancouver and Toronto, where they make about $3 an hour more.

Working conditions have also been a key concern, particularly when it comes to unreliable meal and bathroom breaks for bus operators.

"Nobody in any other profession goes to work for eight hours and doesn't get a bonafide period of time in which they can have their lunch," Dias told reporters earlier in the day.

For the latest details, watch CTV Morning Live beginning at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday.