Cathay Pacific pilots say they fear rumours of 20 per cent pay cuts are a management tactic to scare them into accepting smaller salary reductions - a claim which the company has rejected. Some pilots believe that although the airline may be looking for a 10 per cent cut or less, its chiefs might be trying to soften the blow by warning staff unofficially of bigger cuts. The annual pay talks between Cathay and the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers' Association, representing most of the pilots, are under way. No figures for pay rises or cuts have been mentioned, but talk of a 20 per cent cut has been circulating for several weeks inside the company. When it became public this week, not only pilots, some of whom earn more than $4 million a year, were alarmed. Other staff feared salaries would be hit across the board. 'The rumours are that there will be a 20 per cent cut in our basic salary and that we'll lose the 13th month annual bonus,' said one pilot. 'Our fears are that they are bandying this 20 per cent around so that when they put a 10 or 15 per cent cut on the table we'll be relieved it isn't bigger and accept it. 'They're trying to fool us into voluntarily accepting changes in our contracts,' he said. 'It's still a profitable airline, they don't need to do this.' He accused top Cathay managers of painting a gloomy economic picture to put more pressure on staff to accept salary cuts. 'They're starting with the pilots because they think if they can get it through us they can just impose it on the rest of the staff.' Cathay spokesman Quince Chong Wai-yan said management would never employ such underhand tactics. Rumours of a 20 per cent pay cut were not being put out by the bosses, who had not even worked out their position in the negotiations, she said. 'We haven't brought a figure to the discussion table. 'We don't have any comment on whether there is going to be a cut or freezing or an increase. We don't have this information at the moment.' The unsubstantiated talk was, however, upsetting some members of staff for whom negotiations had not started, Ms Chong said.