Two government departments have stepped in to mediate after pay-rise negotiations between New World First Bus and its staff union broke down yesterday. The company had offered a one-off bonus of $1,000 for every employee this year, but the union demanded a pay rise, said union vice-chairman Johnny Mak Shiu-kei. The union did not specify how much money it sought, hoping instead to reach a figure through negotiation. But after New World management refused the pay rise, union representatives sought a $1,500 bonus, which was also rejected. Transport and Labour department officials last night met bus company executives to head off industrial action. 'New World has been making money, even during the Sars outbreak,' Mr Mak said. 'Eighty per cent of the staff supports industrial action. The economy has just bounced back and we don't want to make that move. But we don't know why the company has been so unyielding.' New World First Bus has about 2,000 employees, of whom 1,600 are drivers. The bonus would apply to all staff. Mr Mak said there had been a salary freeze since 2000.