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The Toronto Transit Commission has averted a strike by a hair's breadth by offering its union $600 in extra payments over three years for all 8,400 members, TTC chairman Howard Moscoe said.

The tentative deal, signed about 12 hours before a walkout was set to start at 12:01 a.m. Monday, was sealed with more than $5 million in extra checks to union members, in the form of $200 a year for three years, in addition to wage hikes and increased pension contributions.

Moscoe said the payments -- agreed to in a last-minute shouting match with union president Bob Kinnear -- are meant to compensate TTC workers for having to pay into their pension plan for the past five years, while other city workers did not have to.

Moscoe said the TTC could not budge on its wage hike offer because the city's other unions would then hold it up as a precedent for their upcoming contract talks.

"We can find a way to give you something that we don't have to give to other workers," he said he told the union. "And so we resolved it through pensions and called it a Red Rocket allowance." Moscoe was adamant that this was not a signing bonus by another name.

"We were trying to avoid the words 'signing bonus.' Because if you call it a signing bonus, everybody else wants one. It's not a signing bonus, it's in compensation for payments they had to make that nobody else had to make," he said.

The union, which is recommending that its members accept the settlement, was holding a membership meeting Tuesday night to outline the deal. Union members will vote on the contract in their workplaces on Thursday.

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