A dispute has broken out among PCCW workers who face wage cuts of up to 40 per cent if they join new companies to be formed under a voluntary redundancy programme. The telecommunications giant announced last month that about 1,000 technicians in various divisions would be asked to leave, but it would help some to set up 17 new independent companies and the rest would be arranged to work for them. The new start-ups will have guaranteed sub-contracting business from PCCW for three years. Most workers were expecting to be paid at least 80 per cent of their salaries at their new jobs, but notices sent out on Wednesday and yesterday from the new start-ups said most could get only between 60 and 75 per cent, according to Terry Ip Ngok-fung, chairman of the 3,000-strong PCCW Staff Association. 'Only three or four companies could offer 80 per cent. The others are offering 75 or 70 per cent, and some even just 60 per cent,' said Mr Ip, who estimates the workers are paid an average of $10,000 a month. 'Some workers think this is unfair as it's much lower than their original expectations. They may have to rethink whether or not to leave PCCW,' Mr Ip said. The union and PCCW said an exact tally of the number of workers who opt for voluntary redundancy would not be available until the deadline next Friday. PCCW has said it will not sack those who do not join but would instead retrain and redeploy them to other divisions. PCCW spokeswoman Joan Wagner last night said the company had no power to intervene in talks between the start-up managers and their colleagues. 'We can't comment on the salaries but the [redundancy] programme is going very well,' she said. PCCW has identified the divisions, employing the 1,000 workers, where maintenance functions could be outsourced: outdoor plant, telephone exchange wiring, broadband service and payphone service. According to an estimate by financial analysts, if all 1,000 workers leave voluntarily, PCCW could slash about 5.2 per cent off its total payroll of $4.6 billion last year. Union leaders were hoping the latest job cut would be the last, but top executives have said it is impossible to give assurances there will be no further redundancies among the 13,000-strong workforce.