Workers Ask Where Ax Will Fall

Fear and trembling are rife across all job categories at Chemical Banking Corp. and Manufacturers Hanover Corp. in the wake of their proposed merger.

Though clerical and back-office workers are the groups most vulnerable to job cuts resulting from the planned merger, corporate staffers could suffer a disproportionate amount of pain.

And there are no plans yet to soften the blow by offering early-retirement incentives, a spokesman for one bank said. That's what Bank of New York Co. did after its merger with Irving Bank Corp. in late 1988.

14% Cut Planned

In their joint merger announcement Monday, the banks said about 6,200 jobs - or about 14% of their combined work force - would be eliminated.

Since clerical and back-office workers account for much of the work force, that's where the most cuts will take place.

Meanwhile, political pressure is likely to mount soon on both banks to avoid as much as possible the need for outright layoffs to achieve their job reduction goal.

Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., an influential member of the House Banking Committee, is concerned about how the merger will affect jobs of his Brooklyn constituents.

Rep. Schumer wants the banks to achieve their job reductions as much as possible through natural attrition and early-retirement programs, a spokesman said. He plans to raise the issue with top officials at both banks in coming days, the spokesman added.

Meanwhile, top officials are also aiming for significant reductions in corporate staff positions with the higher salaries, and those cuts also may be severe.

For example, both banks have legal staffs of about 60 people each. While no decision has been made about how many lawyers the merged institution will need, "it's safe to say we don't need 120," said a source at one bank.

Worries for Hanover Lawyers

Further heightening the anxiety of Hanover staff lawyers is the fact that William McDavid, general counsel at Chemical, will assume that role for the combined institution.

The planned closure or sale of about 70 branches in the New York metropolitan area will account for a significant number of job reductions, but officials at both banks refused to say exactly how many.

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