Facing the threat of a debilitating transit strike in less than 24 hours, New York banks are promising it will be business as usual Wednesday, though much of the local industry's work force may be late or unable to make it to work.
Defiantly, banks say they will use car pools, private cars and buses, and skeleton shifts to keep doors open. Their efforts have been coordinated through the New York Clearing House, which began last week to organize how bankers will get to work.
"There will be absolutely no interruptions," said Macy Edgerton, a spokeswoman for Deutsche Bank AG, where preparations against a possible transit strike began shortly before Thanksgiving. "Our goal is to have no disruptions."
The 30,000-member union representing New York Metropolitan Transit Authority workers said it will strike at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday when its contract expires. The Transit Authority and union have been at odds over the size of a wage increase to be included in the next three-year contract.
A strike, which would be the first since a two-day work stoppage in 1980, could paralyze New York's five boroughs. The transit system carries about 4.6 million riders a day, providing transportation for four out of five commuters on its 323 bus, ferry, and subway routes.
Many of the 95 banks with a presence in Manhattan were working on contingency plans late Monday. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., there are 474 bank locations in Manhattan.
Members of the New York Clearing House are using the organization to act as a liaison between banks and City Hall - which is attempting to construct a makeshift transportation system, including carpools. Clearing House members include Bank of New York Corp., Chase Manhattan Corp., Citigroup Inc., J.P. Morgan & Co., Deutsche Bank, HSBC Americas Inc., FleetBoston Financial Corp., and European American Bank.
Spokesmen for the three largest banking employers - Chase, J.P. Morgan and Citigroup - described similar plans for coping with a potential strike. At Chase, for instance, preliminary plans on Monday called for workers to take chartered buses or ferries from points on Long Island, Staten Island, and the Bronx.
"All employees are expected to make every effort to come to work," said Jon Diat, a Chase spokesman. "We understand there's going to be delays with this kind of a situation, but we are doing business."
A companywide email was expected to be sent late Monday at Chase, which employs 25,000 in New York and 20,000 in Manhattan.
At J.P. Morgan, plans were much the same, though a handful of "essential" bankers from its 16,000-member workforce will be offered hotel accommodations in Manhattan, said bank spokesman Chris Molanphy.
The last transit strike in 1980 lasted two days and sent New York bankers scrambling to find alternate routes. That strike also hatched a fashion trend for women: business attire coupled with white socks and running shoes.
John Meyers, a spokesman for Chase, recalled that the strike coincided with his first day at work.
"It was hard to tell if it was having much of an impact," he said. "I didn't know who was supposed to be there that wasn't."