NINE thousand Thomas Cook workers lost their jobs yesterday with a further 20,000 threatened across Europe as the company, founded in 1841, went bust. Trade unions called for it to be renationalised.
Thomas Cook has a £1.7bn debt. Its entire UK fleet has been grounded and its workforce, including 1,000 in Peterborough, turned up to work yesterday morning only to find they had no job. Meanwhile, 50,000 holidaymakers were stranded in 53 destinations in 18 countries around the world.
Some 16,000 holidaymakers were booked to come back yesterday, and authorities hope to get at least 14,000 of them home on chartered flights. But there was total chaos at the airports with furious families waiting for hours to try to get home.
There were also cases of hotels ‘holding passengers hostage’ because the hotel managers feared they would not be paid. Thomas Cook policy in many cases is to make payment after guests have left.
Hotel security forces were deployed to block guests from leaving, demanding upfront payments from them, even though they had already paid for their package holiday through Thomas Cook.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of TSSA, the workforce’s union, said: ‘I am calling for the nationalisation of Thomas Cook, absolutely, and I have been calling for that for the last few days. The shops are all there, the aeroplanes are all there, the operation is all in place, let’s step in and take over.
‘This was run under public ownership between 1948 and 1972 very successfully, the government should have intervened. When the banks needed a bailout there was no limit to the amount of money put in.
‘It will cost more to repatriate the 150,000 passengers stranded abroad than it would have cost to save the company.’
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: ‘Thomas Cook was once publicly owned and this looks like another privatisation failure over the years.
‘When we campaigned for steel, if you remember, we campaigned and forced the government to intervene and did stabilise the situation and gave the steel industry a bit of a future.
‘I would have liked them to intervene and just allowed a bit of a breathing space so all the issues around the future of the company could have been dealt with and I think we could have saved the jobs.’
The GMB union also called for Thomas Cook to be nationalised, however, Brian Strutton, pilots’ union BALPA General Secretary, fell short of calling for full blown nationalisation, but instead demanded state aid.
He said: ‘There are 600 pilots in Thomas Cook and they will have been devastated by the news overnight … in Germany at the moment, the German government is looking at financing Condor, the German arm of Thomas Cook. Most people thought that the UK government would have looked sympathetically to see if it could have leaned on the UK banks and creditors to give Thomas Cook a lifeline.’