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City employees showed up for work as usual Thursday morning as their unions weighed a response to Mayor Ed Rendell's decision to impose new contract terms unilaterally.

The move by the mayor on Wednesday, which included a wage freeze and cuts in fringe benefits, was met with chants of "Strike! Strike!" at union headquarters. Rendell ordered city managers to prepare for the first walkout by municipal employees in six years.Union leaders, however, said they were exploring other options and told their 15,000 members in the city's nonuniformed work force to keep on the job.

"It's our intention to keep the rank and file working for as long as we can," said Thomas Cronin, president of a union representing 4,000 white-collar employees.

"We are going to work under the existing contract. What Mayor Rendell does is his business," said Dwight Kirk, spokesman for the 11,000-member union of blue-collar employees.

As he began his regular Thursday route this morning, sanitation worker Frison Gregg said he would wait and see what union leaders told him to do. But he stressed that he was not happy about the mayor's cuts and was ready to strike.