THREE of the big four are to recruit more than 1,000 agency staff in time for the traditional peak January sales period amid signs the industry is bouncing back.

Thomas Cook is looking to recruit 1,000 sales consultants by the end of next month, Lunn Poly wants to take on “hundreds” of staff, while First Choice is hoping to fill existing and new vacancies over the next few months.

Thomas Cook’s campaign – its biggest in a decade – aims to bring back staff it has made redundant since 2001, as well as attracting mums keen to return to work, older employees and part-timers.

The travel giant, which took on 500 employees in May, said staff numbers will return to near pre-September 11 levels. The company claims to offer flexible working schemes unmatched by competitors. These include job shares, term-time contracts and school-hour working.

The recruitment drive, focused on London and the southeast of England, comes two years after Thomas Cook axed 1,500 jobs.

Travel industry union the Transport Salaried Staff’s Association welcomed the news as evidence the industry is picking up. But negotiations officer Seyi Clement questioned Thomas Cook’s flexible working after complaints from employees in the last two months. They have been ordered to work Saturdays as shops struggle to cope in peak periods. “We would still like to see what Thomas Cook considers to be flexible working,” he added.

Thomas Cook head of human resources for sales  Zareena Syed said the company wanted to tailor working hours around the needs of its staff and attract those who would not have thought of working in travel.

“We don’t want a stereotype of who works in our business. We already have a diverse mix of staff but want to reflect our client base more and offer flexible working. Now is the time for a national campaign,” she said.

Part of the ‘You’ll Go Far With Thomas Cook’ campaign focuses on a ‘welcome back’ message to encourage

staff to return.

Thomas Cook currently has 6,000 full and part-time shop staff, with salaries starting at £9,000. Of the company’s top sellers, 20% work part-time and 32% are over 50. Recruitment roadshows will be run in city centres during November and December.

Meanwhile, Lunn Poly could not reveal further details of its recruitment plans but said the company had always been keen to employ back-to-work mothers and mature staff.


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