Thomas Cook staff begin legal action over job losses
More than 100 former Thomas Cook staff are taking legal action after losing jobs at the collapsed travel giant.
They believe the firm acted unlawfully in the way they were dismissed and have appointed lawyers to seek redress through an employment tribunal.
One ex-senior manager told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme Thomas Cook was still offering jobs just days before going bust.
Ex-staff say Thomas Cook failed in its duty to keep them informed.
Lawyers from one firm, Simpson Millar, told the BBC that thousands of former workers at the firm could be due a windfall.
Employees are entitled to a Protective Award if they are made redundant from an office of more than 20 people without being properly informed – and are entitled to up to 90 days’ pay.
Claire Hoang, who is part of the legal action, said: “I woke up on Monday with no job. I’ve lost that month’s income. I’ve also had over £700 of expenses I’ll never get back,” she told the Victoria Derbyshire show.
She said: “Company troubles had been hanging over us – but we always thought they’d be a bailout. We were always given the mantra: ‘don’t worry about it we’ll sort it out’.”
‘Promises and lies’
David [not his real name] was headhunted into the company over the summer. He hadn’t seen his first pay cheque before the company was liquidated.
He had concerns, given chatter about the business going under. But a senior executive at the company met him face-to-face to reassure him, and David joined Thomas Cook as a head of department.
“We were told there was a recapitalisation in the works – and that it was quite simple and always happen. Then last week the message changed. The deal was still a game changer, but there will be a lot of noise in the media and we should ignore it.
“Then on Friday we were told the next 48 hours are critical and the negotiations are in a critical phase. The same day letters went out to people offering them jobs.”
David added: “It’s a bit embarrassing having to sign on the dole… Not knowing how quick you get a job, eating into your savings.
“It is worse for people who have been there long term – for 25 years or so, who might not even have a CV!”
“For me it is promises and lies – and this demonstrates how poorly managed the whole thing was.”
When a company makes redundancies it has an obligation to consult employees – offering a cut in hours and letting staff know their job could be at risk.
But many Thomas Cook employees say the first they heard of it was when the company went bust.
One Thomas Cook flight was in the air when the company went into liquidation, only for the crew to land and discover they no longer had jobs.
If staff representatives or trade unions weren’t consulted they could be entitled to a “protective award” which entitles them to up to 90 days pay if the company is trading.
Only those working in offices of over 20 people are eligible for a protective award – so those in smaller High Street stores may miss out.
Some staff, such as pilots and air stewards, are covered by their unions, so the majority of people affected are those in the company headquarters and fulfilment centres.
“Some people say this might not be a lot of money,” says Aneil Balgobin, employment lawyer at Simpson Millar.
“But this is 9,000 families losing a breadwinner – £2,000-£3,000 can make a huge difference when someone is job hunting.
“When people do contact us is often when their mates are getting payments – but by then they’ve missed the boat.”
A spokesperson for the Thomas Cook liquidators said: “We will co-operate with the tribunal process during the liquidation.”