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Last Updated: Friday, 28 September 2007, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Travel firm's new language policy
Protest at Bangor - picture from Welsh Language Society
There were protests against the language policy in June
A travel firm which was at the centre of a row over staff speaking Welsh has produced a new office language policy.

There had been protests after workers at Thomas Cook in Bangor, Gwynedd, were told to speak only English in work-related conversations.

Thomas Cook has now said that "whenever appropriate" it will let staff "use and develop their language abilities".

The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) welcomed the policy and said it should be taken as a model for others.

Thomas Cook joined the Commission for Racial Equality and the Welsh Language Board in announcing the new programme.

In June the Welsh Language Society mounted protests outside Thomas Cook offices in Bangor, Cardiff and Carmarthen after the company said business discussions should be in English.

Their approach should be taken up as a model of how the Welsh language skills of their staff can be valued
Aled Rowlands, Commission for Racial Equality

About 80 protesters gathered at Bangor. A number of the protesters were wearing signs around their necks with the letters WN, meaning Welsh Not - a punishment introduced in 19th Century schools to stop children speaking Welsh.

The company said at the time that it wanted to ensure clear communication at all times and believed English should be used, as it is the common language in the UK.

Now, after discussions with the CRE and language board, Thomas Cook has developed "a wide-ranging policy" on the use of Welsh in the workplace.

"As an employer, whenever appropriate, we will endeavour to enable our staff to use and develop their language abilities," said a Thomas Cook spokesperson.

Strength of feeling

The company said it would promote the use of Welsh as well as English among staff in Wales "in a manner that does not interfere with the good working of the business and which recognises that individual members of staff have a right to use the language of their choice in the workplace where this is reasonable, proportionate and practicable".

CRE commissioner for Wales Aled Edwards said: "Thomas Cook has taken to heart the strength of feeling in Wales about the language - and the business benefits that comes from valuing the skills of their staff," he said.

"Their approach should be taken up as a model of how the Welsh language skills of their staff can be valued and used - and the skills of other language speakers."

Meri Huws, chair of the Welsh Language Board, welcomed the "constructive way" Thomas Cook had responded.

Ms Huws said they looked forward to working with the company to implement their new language policy effectively "so that they can make the most of the skills their staff possess".


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