A bizarre coach tour yesterday sparked claims Hongkong Telecom was using psychological tactics to push through its new pay deal.
The company brought forward its original deadline for negotiations from Friday, setting off speculation it was timed to coincide with the announcement of a record high unemployment rate.
And the 100 staff representatives taken to the Shek O transmitter plant talks say they were kept out of touch with colleagues and reporters outside by strange arrangements for the meeting.
Cable technician officer Lam Wing-hin said staff did not know they were being taken to Shek O until the coach made a turn at a roundabout leading to the transmitter plant. 'The place requires permits for entry. Reporters and other unions were out,' he said.
Mr Lam said there was a groundswell of speculation among colleagues during the half-hour ride that 'the company was playing a psychological battle with us, scaring us first and then giving us a repackaged deal.' Fan Kwok-fai, executive secretary of Hong Kong Telecom Employees Unions, said the transmitter site muffled mobile phone lines, keeping them out of touch with colleagues and media contacts.
About 100 staff were taken to Shek O by eight company coaches at 8.15am and were warned not to talk to reporters outside the building.
A Hongkong Telecom spokesman said it was mere coincidence the proposal was put forward on the day of gloomy employment prospects. 'The November 20 deadline was only a tentative date,' he said.