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Mayor Edward Rendell will outline the next step in the city's ongoing labor dispute at a press conference this morning, following Wednesday's state Supreme Court decision striking down a fact-finding mission which had kept the mayor from trying to impose a contract and had kept the city's municipal workers from striking. Rendell will explain "his reaction and his plan as a result of the decision," Kevin Feeley, the mayor's press secretary said yesterday. The long-awaited decision stated that fact-finders, requested by city unions, were not appointed during the time period mandated by law. The ruling paves the way for Rendell to force matters to a head with the unions representing the city's blue-collar and white-collar workers. The unions have threatened to strike and voted earlier this month to authorize a strike should their leaders deem it necessary. Negotiations with the city broke off because of disputes over cutbacks in medical benefits which the city says it cannot afford. In the wake of the decision, labor officials continued to urge the city to resume negotiations and settle the dispute. Thomas Paine Cronin, president of District Council 47, the white-collar union, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that labor leaders "want to come to an agreement," but he said the court ruling had increased the likelihood of the strike. "We do not read the state Supreme Court's ruling today as a green light for reckless actions or rhetoric," James Sutton, president of District Council 33, the blue-collar workers, said in a statement to the paper. "We urge Mayor Rendell to enter serious, sustained negotiations with District Council 33 rather than tear this community apart by forcing a strike," he added.

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