A tentative settlement was reached Saturday to avert a strike at the San Francisco Bay area's three largest newspapers, negotiators for both sides said.

Management accepted a union proposal at 10 a.m. after considering it during a short break in negotiations that went through the night, said Richard Jordan, chief negotiator for the San Francisco Newspaper Agency."No Strike," Carl Hall, shop steward and San Francisco Examiner reporter, told cheering newspaper workers gathered at strike headquarters Saturday morning.

"That's a group of people that were afraid they were going to strike but now know they aren't," said Tom Wheelan, a driver for the Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle.

The unions representing 4,500 employees at the San Francisco Examiner, the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News had threatened to strike at 5 p.m. Friday. Instead, talks were continued after both sides agreed that progress was being made.

"We're happy for all concerned that there's a settlement," Jordan said. "I think both sides made concessions."

Jordan said the the federal mediator told him the union negotiating committee was unanimously recommending the contract to its members.

The agreement provides for an average $89 a week wage increase over the term of the contract, which expires in November 1993, Jordan said.

Workers represented ranged from reporters and editors to delivery drivers and press operators. Current top-scale pay is $801 a week for reporters and editors, $669 for clerical and library workers and $675 for drivers.

The three papers have a combined circulation of about 1 million.

"There were improvements in terms of child care and dependent care and flexible spending programs," which allow a portion of earnings to be shielded from taxes, Jordan said.

Other details of the proposal were not immediately released.