The freeze-and-cut deal for civil service pay was struck after intense behind-the-scenes lobbying over the past few weeks. The negotiations tug-of-war began with the government insisting on going ahead with a 6 per cent cut in the new financial year to help ease the budget deficit. But the staff unions were adamant that any pay cut must be done according to the pay-trend mechanism. The deadlock prompted Civil Service Secretary Joseph Wong Wing-ping and Federation of Trade Unions chief Cheng Yiu-tong, also a member of the Executive Council, to lobby unions separately as the deadline for a progress report to Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa drew near last month. Amid growing pressure from business and political parties to trim spending, unions later softened their stance and offered to accept a pay cut in phases, but insisted there should be a freeze in the coming year. They said the civil service, which had a pay cut in October, should be 'given a break'. Mr Tung reportedly had no objection to spreading the pay cut. But with influential business leaders calling for an immediate cut in return for support over expected tax increases, officials remained keen to push ahead a two-phase pay cut in October. The government eventually bowed to pressure to delay the pay cut by three months.