SOME of the 170 workers laid off by China Motor Bus (CMB) yesterday claimed that the company sacked them to avoid giving severance and pension payments. CMB said it was forced to lay off more than 170 employees after the Government announced that Citybus would in September take over 26 bus routes currently operated by CMB. However, staff union members said last night that most of the redundant workers were on routes retained by CMB. According to CMB, the jobs occupied by the 120 drivers, 36 depot mechanics and 17 bus stop queue controllers, would disappear with the 26 routes. But the CMB branch of the Motor Transport Worker's General Union said only two of those who received redundancy notices worked on such routes. Furthermore, union spokesman Tang Wing-cheong said eight staff who were made redundant were due to retire within the next year or two on reaching 65, when they would have been eligible for a company pension. Five other staff aged 61 were being laid off despite each having more than 30 years of service, he said. Two of the other workers made redundant had been about to complete two years of service in September, which would have entitled them to severance payments on dismissal. CMB officials told union leaders at a meeting yesterday that the dismissed staff must leave the company at the end of August. Mr Tang criticised the management for its handling of the redundancies and accused them of lying about re-organisation after September. ''We do not want to repeat a strike similar to the one in 1989 which hit passengers, but we want an honest and open management to help allay drivers' worries about compensation,'' Mr Tang said. Citybus has urged redundant CMB staff to apply for its 170 vacancies for bus drivers and depot mechanics. Citybus general manager Lyndon Rees said last night that the company sympathised with and would give priority to experienced staff laid off by CMB. Mr Rees said there would be no age limit for redundant CMB staff to apply for jobs with Citybus and that older candidates, if they passed medical tests, would be given light duties, including short driving shifts and cleaning and refuelling buses. Successful candidates would be given two weeks' orientation and training while they were still with their current employer. ''We do not want to rob CMB of drivers or affect their service,'' Mr Rees said.