The Hospital Authority has promised that public hospital doctors who have refused to sign a pay cut agreement will not be sacked, a doctor's union leader said yesterday. Authority chief executive Shane Solomon had apologised for earlier stating that employees would be sacked if they did not sign a pay cut consent form, Public Doctors' Association president Ho Pak-leung said. Dr Ho said Mr Solomon, with whom he had been communicating during the past week, had called him yesterday to talk about the issue. A Hospital Authority spokeswoman would not confirm Dr Ho's claim about Mr Solomon's promise, nor the apology. The authority, a statutory body, has decided to cut employees' pay in line with civil service pay cuts. Letters seeking employees' consent were sent out last Monday, even though the legislature will not scrutinise before October the bill that aims to cut the pay of senior civil servants by 5.38 per cent. Employees originally needed to return the form before September 25, but Dr Ho quoted Mr Solomon as saying that deadline would now be postponed, 'hopefully until after the Legislative Council has passed the bill'. The authority spokeswoman said both sides were trying hard to solve the dispute and that the authority was seeking a meeting with doctor representatives early this week. 'It is hopeful that consensus can be attained,' she said. Mr Solomon and authority cluster services director Cheung Wai-lun invited the doctors for a similar meeting last Thursday, but the doctors declined. Dr Ho said union members' opinions were still being canvassed, but doctors would most probably show up for the meeting this week. He said doctors were not against the pay cut, but the authority's 'heavy-handed' approach. However, he said: 'I believe that after the bill has been passed in Legco, almost every one of us will sign the agreement.' Similar pay cuts for doctors were implemented after civil service pay was trimmed in 2002, 2004 and 2005. The authority said the employee consent rate was almost 100 per cent. In the meantime, representatives of doctors working for the authority, including Dr Ho, will meet Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok tonight to discuss the quality of the authority's management. Dr Ho said doctors would voice their concerns on the pay cut row, and also on the recent series of medical blunders involving public hospitals. Meanwhile, the dispute between the authority and its employees has raised concerns that a similar situation could happen to other statutory bodies. Federation of Trade Unions chairman Wong Kwok-kin, who is also a legislator, said so far he had not heard of similar pay cut plans at other statutory bodies or government-funded institutions. 'Whether to introduce a pay cut or not would depend on the amount of government subvention,' he said. 'Other institutions might start to plan after Legco passes the bill ... unlike the Hospital Authority, which acted a bit hastily.' He said the federation opposed pay cuts of any kind, but welcomed the authority's announcement, if it was true, that the deadline for the return of pay-cut consent forms had been pushed forward. 'At least it offers some degree of flexibility,' he said. 'They should not do anything before Legco passes the bill.'