The YMCA has been accused of giving jobs to graduates of its retraining courses at the expense of existing casual staff and paying them much lower salaries. The Catering and Hotels Industries Employees General Union said this was creating an 'illusion' that a high proportion of the retrained people were getting jobs and enabling the YMCA to avoid its obligations to staff. The YMCA rejected the claim and said it wanted to help as many unemployed people as possible. Labour officials vowed to investigate but had not received complaints. A woman who used to work as a housekeeper at the YMCA's Horizon Suite Hotel in Ma On Shan said her salary had dwindled from $8,000 a month when she joined late in 2002, to $3,000 when her work dried up this July. 'When I told them I was pregnant in late 2003, the supervisor simply told me to leave. When I finally got back to work four months after I gave birth my duties had been reduced to 10 days a month,' said the woman, giving her name only as Ah Fong. The union said 30 to 40 graduates from the YMCA's retraining programme had joined the hotel's housekeeping team since last year, raising the number of cleaners from fewer than 10 in 2003 to more than 50 this year. 'This is nothing but an illusion, they make it seem like more than 80 per cent of their graduates have found jobs,' organising secretary Poon Man-hon said. 'Some have worked like this for more than a year,' he said, adding that since June, some cleaners were required to take a week of unpaid leave for every four weeks of work. But Richard Wong Chi-wing, human resources and administration manager of YMCA in Hong Kong, denied the move was a tactic to evade having to pay statutory benefits. 'More than 60 per cent of our staff are eligible for statutory labour benefits. We are a Christian organisation, we just want to offer as many chances as possible to the unemployed.' But he did admit jobs were becoming scarce. Officials from the Employees Retraining Board said they would look into the matter. 'It would be unreasonable and unhealthy if graduates of the course work infinitely in a placement situation,' the board said.