Only about 300 of the 4,000 Hongkong Telecom workers offered voluntary redundancy had agreed to take packages by yesterday's deadline. There was no word from the company last night on whether sackings would have to follow as the telecommunications giant tries to reduce its wage bill. A 'voluntary exit' programme for almost one-third of the company's staff was offered late last month. A Telecom spokeswoman said 199 customer service and network operations workers had applied to take the deal by Friday, but more were expected to sign yesterday. The package gives workers half a month's salary for each year of service, to a maximum of nine months'. They retain their rights to the company share option scheme. The spokeswoman would not comment on the response. The Hong Kong Telephone Co Ltd Staff Association said the number of redundancies might be enough to prevent mass lay-offs. But chairman Ip Kwok-fun said he was surprised many of those who had signed were in their 30s. 'The exercise demonstrated a lack of care by the company towards its employees' well-being,' he said. 'Many employees, who were able and nowhere near retirement age, simply lost faith with the company and were not optimistic about their future.' The Hong Kong Telecom Employees Union, which represents workers across the industry, said the number who had accepted redundancy was insignificant compared with the number who left the company naturally each year.