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San Francisco cable cars rolling again after sickout ends

(Reuters) - San Francisco's famed cable cars were rolling again on Thursday, resuming operations three days after a sickout by bus and rail operators hobbled the city's transit system and grounded the historic vehicles to a halt, an official said.

The sickout by workers showing their distaste with a contract officer from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has for days hamstrung a Muni transit system that normally transports some 700,000 passengers a day.

The return of the cable cars came as over 90 percent of bus and rail lines on the city's Muni system was in service on Thursday, compared to about a third of the system that operated when the sickout began on Monday, said Paul Rose, a spokesman for the transportation agency.

The cable cars, which are popular with tourists and are designated as National Historic Landmarks, run through San Francisco's hilly cityscape and take passengers to such destinations as Fisherman's Wharf and Union Square.

During the sickout, the city did not have enough operators to keep the three cable car lines running, Rose said.

"The cable cars mean so much to so many people around the world, and it's always good to see them back in service," Rose said.

Union officials have maintained the workers called in sick spontaneously and the officials did not tell them to stay home.

But City Attorney Dennis Herrera on Wednesday filed a complaint with the California Public Employment Relations Board, accusing officials with the Transport Workers Union of America, Local 250-A, of orchestrating the sickout among the bus and rail operators who make up its membership.

Bus and rail operators voted overwhelmingly on Friday to reject a contract proposal from the transportation agency.

The offer would increase the minimum base pay for operators to $32 an hour, Rose said. But the union contends the pay increase offered by the agency in a two-year contract does not adequately compensate for increased pension contributions the workers have been asked to make.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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