Thomas Cook is going into battle with travel trade union TSSA after employees said unpaid overtime, unfair targets and low pay were making them feel “fed up and exploited”.

A total of 300 travel agents, foreign exchange staff and back-office workers responded to the TSSA’s first survey of Thomas Cook employees conducted last month.

The workers called for an improved base pay rate and an end to unpaid overtime. The respondents were part of the 1,500 Thomas Cook membership of the TSSA. Thomas Cook employs 15,000 shop staff.

Agents who work in Thomas Cook’s smaller branches complained about having to clean shops themselves. Employees also said targets had not been adjusted in light of the recession.

TSSA regional organiser Jessica Fenn, who has national responsibility for Thomas Cook, said: “There is a lot of anger – people are really fed up and feel exploited, morale is very low.”

The union was due to meet with Thomas Cook on Thursday to discuss the findings of the survey. Last week, 80% of members rejected a 1.5% performance-related pay rise.

“They (Thomas Cook) have told us the 1.5% pay increase won’t change and we’re prepared to accept that – if we can sit down and address other issues like overtime and targets,” said Fenn. “We are pushing them to commit to taking action on those areas.”

A spokesperson for Thomas Cook said the operator would discuss the findings of the survey with the union.

He said: “Our staff are very important to us. We are working hard to make sure they are the least impacted by the current economic climate, which is why, at a time when many organisations are implementing pay freezes, we are continuing with our offer of a pay rise.”

In contrast to the union’s study, a survey of 10,000 staff conducted by the operator found that most of its employees have a high level of job satisfaction.