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A potential strike by light rail operators was avoided Friday after the two sides in a labor debate came to an agreement.

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1433 and light rail operations contractor, Alternate Concepts, Inc. (ACI) agreed to submit their issues to a legally binding arbitration process set to begin in early 2013. The arbitrator's decision will be final.

"We are relieved that our passengers will not be affected, especially this holiday season," said Valley Metro CEO Steve Banta in a release.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said in the release that he was pleased that a work stoppage was avoided.

"I'm pleased that these discussions will continue because it's critical that our light rail system keeps running and that service is provided across the region," said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, Chairman of the Valley Metro Rail Board. "I have spoken to both sides on this issue and I stand ready to work with them toward a long-term resolution."

The current collective bargaining agreement between the parties was scheduled to run out on Dec. 31, 2012.

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