Contract postal staff are considering staging a strike during the Christmas holidays, after Hongkong Post requested that staff at the Air Mail Centre work on Boxing Day to clear accumulated mail. About a third, or 2,200, of postmen and women are contract staff, their responsibilities including sorting letters and customer service at counters. Chan Wai-man, vice-chairman of the Rights Association of Hongkong Post Contract Staff, said its members met last night to discuss whether they would take any industrial action in response to a notice from Hongkong Post issued a few days ago, which requested that the 409 contract staff at the airport's Air Mail Centre work on December 26. The contract staff union, which according to Hongkong Post has fewer than 50 members, is one of several postal unions. 'We will talk about all the matters related to Hongkong Post's contract staff, including the Boxing Day issue,' Chan said before the meeting last night. He said the union would make a public announcement today. Earlier, the union reportedly said the employer promised at the beginning of this year that half of the contract postmen and women could enjoy a day off on public holidays. It claimed that by asking all contract staff at the Air Mail Centre to work on Boxing Day, Hongkong Post was failing to keep its word. Some were discontented with the request, as they had already made plans for the holiday, such as flying out of the city. They would not only need to cancel their trips but lose money spent on tour packages and the like. A spokeswoman for Hongkong Post said that according to the contract, Boxing Day was not a statutory holiday, and that all contract staff - except those whose divisions were not in operation that day - were required to work. She said the department made the request because of a huge amount of accumulated outbound airmail at the airport, as the delivery of airmail had been delayed by a week or two because airlines had cut back flights. Also, airmail has surged by about 30 per cent compared with last year. 'Christmas is a peak season for us, and we have a lot more mail items to handle,' she said. 'Considering that we do not want our service quality affected, we are asking the staff to work that day. 'Contract staff have to work during non-statutory holidays. But in some circumstances, we would consider if some of them can be on holiday - after striking a balance between staff demands and the impact on our service quality and operation.' A meeting between Postmaster General Clement Cheung Wan-ching and the union would be held today or tomorrow, the spokeswoman said. She said Hongkong Post had arranged at least four chartered flights to London, New York and Frankfurt already to clear mail items, and the situation had improved significantly compared with a few weeks ago. 'We are very confident that mail sent before the deadlines for delivery before Christmas will arrive at its destinations on time,' she said.