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The only thing left to do is wait. And wait. And wait. SEPTA negotiators met briefly with officials from Transport Workers Union Local 234 yesterday but failed to resolve any contract issues for city transit employees. The two sides plan to resume talks today, and city buses, subways and trolleys will likely run on schedule. TWU President Steve Brookens said Monday that the union no longer plans to alert the public each evening of a potential strike, claiming that he's tired of hearing SEPTA management accuse the union of "holding the public hostage." Yesterday, the union made no public comment on the likelihood of a strike. Union officials are planning a rally Thursday afternoon at SEPTA headquarters at 12th and Market streets, and until then, only minimal progress is expected in the talks. A strike by the 5,300-member union would shut down most buses, trolleys and subways, leaving the transit system's 450,000 weekday passengers searching for other ways to get around the city. Regional rail lines would be unaffected. The deadlocked negotiations rolled into their tenth straight day yesterday, with both sides agreeing that little progress has been made. Contract talks have continued since March 14, when the union agreed to keep talking past the contract deadline and postpone a possible strike. Yesterday, Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell reiterated his suggestion that the union should accept SEPTA's current proposal and move to settle disputes over pensions, workers compensation, benefits and zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol violations -- the issues which continue to stymie negotiations. "The union has to understand that to finance that contract they have got to agree to changes in the work rules? and some of their benefits, which will save SEPTA millions of dollars," Rendell told The Associated Press. While the deadlock continues, the possibility of an expanded strike is becoming more real, as bus drivers and mechanics on routes in Bucks and Montgomery counties voted Sunday to authorize a strike when their contract expires April 7. Additionally, members of the TWU's suburban Victory Division, which has some rail lines running through West Philadelphia, voted last night to authorize a strike if they did not have a contract by their April 1 deadline.

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