The University of Hong Kong (HKU) is preparing for possible lawsuits from members of staff who refuse to consent to government-driven pay cuts. The university signalled this week that nearly ten per cent of its staff had failed to give their consent or sign any document authorising a pay cut. 'We are putting aside a reserve fund on the basis of the number of people not responding in case lawsuits arise in future over the pay cut among staff,' said a spokesman, adding that labour laws obliged the university to ask for staff consent. She added that the university regarded the response rate, at 91 per cent, as satisfactory in the light of the large number of long-serving staff at the university whose pensions would be affected by the lower salary scales. The Federation of Higher Education Staff Associations said it had not received any complaints from staff about the pay cut or request to sign consent forms. The cut, ranging from 1.58 to 4.42 per cent, has been imposed by the government - which argues it is necessary in the present economic climate - in line with civil service salary reduction guidelines. It is effective this month. But some university employees have been angered by the request that they sign consent forms, arguing that it makes them look as if they are volunteering for cuts which they do not want. The chairman of HKU's Academic Staff Association, Chan Chi-wai, has refused to sign the form, saying that doing so was akin to consent by force. 'It is a waste of money to issue the forms. The pay cut would have to be imposed with or without our consent. 'We were not asked to sign any form when there were pay rises in the civil service, so why should we do it now when there are pay cuts?' Dr Chan asked. He has also written to the University Grants Committee opposing its plan to collect data on the response rate at various universities. 'It seems to be trying to interfere with university operations by asking for the data.' The Chinese University of Hong Kong declined to reveal the number of its staff who had returned their 'consent forms' though staff there believe it is more than 90 per cent. Other institutions have reported a return rate of 100 per cent or close. Rather than involving all staff, the Hong Kong Institute of Education only distributed forms to 205 staff whose contract contained specific stipulation that their consent was required for any salary adjustment. In a letter to Education Post, one staff member at the Vocational Training Council (VTC) complained that he had been warned he could lose his job if he failed to indicate his consent to the pay cut. A VTC spokesman declined to comment on what the worst-case scenario could be for those who did not express consent. 'We will try our best to convince them to sign,' she said. Fewer than 10 of its 3,600 staff had yet to return their forms, she added.