From bankers to lawyers, judges and brokers, Toronto's financial district will look much like a ghost town this week as thousands of employees stay home and many operations grind to a halt.
"People seem to be taking to the heart this notion of, if you can stay home, stay home," said Ralph Marranca, a spokesman for Bank of Montreal.
The bank employs about 6,000 people in the downtown core, and by Friday roughly 4,000 will be either working from home or taking the day off, Mr. Marranca said. BMO has also moved much of its trading floor to another location and it plans to close nine central bank branches. Other banks are making similar arrangements and as many as 50 bank branches in total will likely be closed.
All 400 employees at Zurich Canada's head office, located next to the United States consulate, will be working from home Friday. The company has also booked hotel rooms and stockpiled food and bedding for about 100 employees at a call centre in the building, which is staffed around the clock to handle travel insurance issues. The company has added extra security, installed a phone line to update employees, and offered a tip sheet to customers to help them prepare for G20 disruptions. "In many cases this is more just hassle or interrupted flow that makes it difficult for you to deliver for your customers," said chief executive Alister Campbell.
Stocks will keep trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange all week, but the company running the exchange, TMX Group Inc., has told most of its head-office staff to work offsite. "We have, regularly, about 400 employees who work here and we are down to probably 20 per cent of that in the office at the moment," said company spokeswoman Carolyn Quick.
Several law firms plan to close Friday and others are making daily adjustments. "We're posting voice-mail messages by 7:15 a.m. each day for the staff to alert them to any anticipated problems or delays," said John Finnigan, a partner at ThorntonGroutFinnigan LLP. "We've told everyone to use common sense. If they feel in any way threatened by protesters or police action on their way to work, they should make their way to safety immediately."
Many judges are also staying clear of downtown. The Tax Court of Canada has cancelled hearings at its Toronto court this week and the Commercial List court, which handles business cases, is not expected to hold hearings Thursday or Friday.
Anyone stuck working downtown will face challenges beyond transportation delays, road blocks and police checks. Simply getting mail will be tricky. Canada Post has removed more than 150 mailboxes from the central core, and some of its downtown post offices will close three hours early on Friday. Mail chutes in several office towers have also been closed and courier companies will be cutting some delivery services.
The post office plans to deliver mail as well as possible, and it has added a second employee to its downtown mail delivery trucks to cope with various no-parking zones, according to Canada Post spokeswoman Deborah Harron-Thomson. One person will deliver mail while the other one keeps the truck moving, she said.
"Our plan is to be out there," said Ms. Harron-Thomson. Employees have been told that "if there is a situation or protests, they go in the opposite direction."
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