Suffolk/Essex: Jobs threat as Thomas Cook confirms store closure plans

Thomas Cook has confirmed details of the 195 travel agencies is plans to close

Thomas Cook has confirmed details of the 195 travel agencies is plans to close - Credit: PA

HOLIDAYS firm Thomas Cook today confirmed that six travel agencies in Suffolk and north Essex are earmarked for closure under a restructuring plan announced earlier this week which has put around 2,500 UK jobs at risk.

Thomas Cook has launched a 90-day consultation with employees over proposals to close a total of 195 travel stores and its office at Accrington, near Manchester, with some jobs also under threat at its head office in Peterborough and another office at Preston.

A total of 25 jobs are at risk at the six stores which the company plans to close in Suffolk and north Essex. These include the Thomas Cook-branded stores in Abbeygate Street, Bury St Edmunds (where four people are currently employed), High Street, Haverhill (five) and High Street, Halstead (four).

Also planned to close are the Co-op-branded travel stores in Carr Street, Ipswich (which has a staff of five), Hamilton Road, Felixstowe (four) and Market Road, Chelmsford (three). These became part of the company when the Co-operative Group’s travel business merged with Thomas Cook in 2011.

A spokesman for Thomas Cook said that opportunities for staff at the affected stores to relocate to other branches would be explored, but redundancies could not be ruled out.

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The closures do not affect the East of England Co-op’s travel stores. The Ipswich-based society announced last month that it was moving away from the joint venture between Thomas Cook and the Co-operative Group, with its 10 agencies, located in north and mid-Essex, joining a consortium led by the Midcounties Co-op.

Having already recently closed 149 stores, Thomas Cook will be left with 874 travel agencies across the UK and Northern Ireland. the proposed 2,500 job losses represent around 16% of the company’s 15,500 workforce in the UK and Ireland.

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Thomas Cook slumped to a £590million loss in its last financial year and, announcing the restructuring plans earlier this week, the company’s recently appointed UK and Ireland chief executive, Peter Fankhauser, said the proposals would help return the group to profitability.

Mr Fankhauser said: “Thomas Cook is a much-loved brand that needs to make the proposed changes to secure our future and provide continued employment for many thousands across the UK and better meet the needs of our customers going forward.”

“It is never easy to make decisions that impact directly on our people, but we also owe it to our customers to operate efficiently and ensure that when they book their holiday with us our administrative costs are as low as possible,” he added.

However, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, which represents some Thomas Coook employees, said it was “shocked and angry” at the scale of the job losses.

General secretary Manuel Cortes said: “This constant policy of slash and burn, with the axing of one in four stores and the loss of jobs, is simply self-defeating.

“The company needs new products if it to come to come to terms with the age of the internet and prosper in the 21st Century.

“That is the only way to stop this spiral of decline which repeated bad management decisions over the past five years has led them.”

Sharon Ainsworth, national officer of retail union Usdaw, added: “Even those who are not at risk of redundancy are facing the prospect of cuts to their benefits packages, following a number of cost-cutting proposals which the business has put forward.

“We will be examining these proposals closely and will defend our members’ interests throughout this uncertain time. We will be doing all we can to support all of our members during the difficult weeks and months ahead.”

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