First Bus union leaders yesterday demanded a five per cent salary increase after rejecting the company's plan to freeze 2,400 workers' wages for a year. Both sides agreed to meet again to hammer out a compromise before next month's deadline. 'The five per cent rise is negotiable but the wage freeze is not. Our staff do not accept that,' said Wu Wai-chik, secretary of the First Bus branch of the Motor Transport Workers' General Union. The company promised there would be no wage cuts or redundancies but would not say this was conditional on the union's acceptance of the wage freeze. A company spokeswoman said the freeze was necessary because of $2 billion investments over five years to improve services and working conditions. These include building a new bus depot and buying new buses. 'We are a new company, less than a year old, and we are still operating at a loss in this harsh economic climate,' she said. The spokeswoman said the freeze on bus fares until the end of this year was also a financial burden.