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Exclusive: Now you’re talking

Human resources bosses from the top retail agencies will
get together to discuss staffing issues for the first time in more
than three years next week – thanks to Travel
Weekly.

A meeting has been organised amid concerns the industry is
losing thousands of good, enthusiastic and knowledgeable agents
because retailers don’t try to find alternative employment
for staff who are being made redundant.

HR managers – including those at Thomas Cook, First Choice
and Going Places – want to tell each other when they are
making redundancies and when they’re hiring in a bid to stop
skilled staff leaving the industry for good. The big four used to
have quarterly HR meetings to discuss such issues, but these were
stopped after the September 11 terrorist attacks amid sensitivity
among the key players about making mass redundancies.

Next week’s meeting will see Thomas Cook and First Choice
HR directors Clive Adkin and Jacky Simmons, and Going Places HR
advisor Sharron Dowling join ABTA chief executive Ian Reynolds and
Travel Weekly to discuss the issue.

Dowling said she had been “shut down” when trying to find
alternative employment for Going Places agents made redundant since
September 11.

“The people I have come across have such a passion for travel
and for selling travel that it’s devastating for them when
they are told they may have to leave the sector. We need to work
together and forge some relationships.”

She added: “The big companies can sit in a boardroom and talk
commercially about not undercutting each other or slagging each
other off, but they cannot do it for their staff.”

Adkins and Simmons agreed.

“At the moment we do not have regular dialogue. It’s
something we should do, as we all face similar problems,” Adkins
said.

Simmons added: “We should share best practice.”

Other sectors of the industry, including airlines and business
travel, already have an open dialogue on staffing matters.

The Airline Personnel Discussion Group meets quarterly and US
Airways recently used the group to find staff roles at other
airlines after it went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Meanwhile, Gulf Air HR representative Elia Pacilio revealed the
company has shared pilots with American Airlines.

The Guild of British Travel Agents helps to improve
communication and redeploy agents among business travel
companies.

  • Places are still available at the HR meeting, which takes place
    next Friday at ABTA’s head office in Newman Street,
    London.
  • For more details, e-mail: paul.nelson@rbi.co.uk

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