Hong Kong Telecom employees yesterday accused the company of using the economic downturn as an excuse to enforce worse conditions. They said they were being given contracts that included a low pay rise, longer hours and no special allowance for overtime. The company, one of the largest private employers, said it would offer a three per cent rise for general staff and four per cent for middle managers from July 2. It would require 3,000 'Band 3' workers, which include hotline operators and maintenance staff, to work 42.5 hours a week instead of 39 without extra pay. The company also plans to eliminate a $50-per-week special allowance for working more than five days a week. Union chairman Cheng Chun-man said: 'They're taking advantage of the workers and using the economic climate as an excuse to cut costs. The workers only have two options, accept the contract terms or quit. But it's very hard to find another job these days.' The company made $12.4 billion profit in the last financial year - an increase of 11.6 per cent on the previous year. Telecom spokesman Louis Liu said the company needed to prepare for possible bad times. He said: 'We're facing fierce competition in the years to come. The company has been successful, but the management has the responsibility to prepare for complications ahead and allow the company to continue to grow.'