The move to cut wages of new recruits and staff on non-civil service contract terms has been criticised. Temporary staff at the Post Office were the first to have their salaries slashed. Postmaster- General Luk Ping-chuen announced that the salaries of tem porary staff would be cut by 20 per cent, which would save the Post Office $4 million a year. Although estimated revenue for last year was $4 billion, the Post Office had failed to achieve a 10.5 per cent target rate of return. Postal business dropped 5.5 per cent last year. Some staff were unhappy and sought help from the Confederation of Trade Unions. Confederation of Trade Unions secretary-general Lee Cheuk-yan said cutting temporary staff's salaries was unfair. 'It's also a breach of civil service regulations, which say temporary staff should be employed on a short-term basis for not more than one year,' he said. Mr Lee also worried the move would encourage the private sector to do likewise. The Post Office denied it had breached guidelines by cutting salaries. Post Office spokesman Roy Siu Kwong-fai insisted the affected staff had been briefed on the pay cuts in good time. A temporary courier, who earns $9,000 a month, said: 'I've worked for six years as temporary staff. It's unfair to us.' Unionists said there had been no prior consultation with staff and they considered this a breach of the guidelines issued by the Labour Department on cutting salaries. According to the guidelines, at least seven days' notice should be given before cutting wages and there should be prior consultation. Mr Siu said the temporary staff were given one week to decide whether to accept the new salary, paid monthly instead of daily or hourly, and be employed on contract terms. He said the Post Office, which has 6,000 employees, had to improve cost-effectiveness. The Social Welfare Department was also criticised for cutting wages for new staff. Legislator Andrew Wong Wang-fat said if the recruits provided government service, they should be considered civil servants and enjoy civil service pay. Social Welfare Department Director Andrew Leung Kin- pong said the staff were on non- civil service contract terms and could not be paid according to the civil servants' salary scale. Mr Leung said paying the 63 new staff, who were Form Five graduates with two years' work experience, $9,700 was 'good enough'. Secretary for Civil Service Lam Woon-kwong said a 30 per cent pay cut for government recruits was a good offer. 'We have the responsibility to spend taxpayers' money prudently, especially in times of economic downturn,' he said.