Latest: Impact of Thomas Cook closure across Falkirk district, including at Larbert call centre
Staff and customers of troubled travel agents Thomas Cook were devastated at this week’s announcement the company had ceased trading.
Employees at the branch in Falkirk’s High Street received the shock news on Monday morning that they were out of work, many of them after years of service with the firm.
Meanwhile, holidaymakers already abroad had their travel plans thrown into uncertainty, while those across the district who had already booked for future trips were told that they would have to apply for refunds.
There were also concerns about the future of jobs at the Larbert call centre run by Webhelp which dealt with calls for the travel agent.
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Although the staff have been sent home as there is no work for them, Webhelp bosses say they will be paid.
It is also hoped to redeploy them within the business.
Thomas Cook went into administration in the early hours of Monday morning after bosses were unable to raise a financial rescue package of over £1 billion or a government bailout.
More than 9000 people in the UK were immediately put out of work and including those working abroad the number affected is understood to be 22,000.
While news of the travel agents failure was being revealed, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) immediately launched the UK’s largest peacetime repatriation on Monday, bringing 14,700 Thomas Cook customers home on 64 flights.
A further 135,000 passengers are expected to be brought back on rescue flights over the next two weeks costing around £100 million.
The UK CAA said in a statement: “Thomas Cook Group has ceased trading with immediate effect. All Thomas Cook bookings, including flights and holidays, have now been cancelled.”
Thomas Cook chief executive Peter Fankhauser said the company had “worked exhaustively” towards a rescue package.
Although many are anxious about the future, staff at Webhelp’s Larbert call centre who dealt with work for the travel agents have been told their jobs are safe for now.
A spokesperson for Webhelp said: “The situation that all Thomas Cook companies have ceased trading is an understandably worrying time for Thomas Cook’s employees, customers and partners.
“It is also unsettling for Webhelp employees, particularly those who worked on our Thomas Cook business. We greatly appreciate the ongoing hard work of our dedicated employees during this period of transition.
“As we are no longer providing services to Thomas Cook, we are considering the impact on our business – with a particular focus on our people. Our priority is to seek suitable alternative roles within Webhelp wherever possible and provide support to our colleagues as we work through this process.”
Falkirk MP John McNally said: “Devastating news about the sudden collapse of Thomas Cook. Workers face job losses and possible uncertainty and hardship to their families.
“The closure will have profound effect on both the store on our High Street in Falkirk, and at the call centre in Larbert. The blow to the workers there is terrible. I will write to the UK Government to seek that employees are fully supported by government agencies throughout the fallout of the collapse. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this.”
Michael Matheson, Falkirk West MSP, said: “The collapse of Thomas Cook has obviously caused major inconvenience for the thousands of holidaymakers left stranded abroad or who have had their upcoming travel plans thrown into disarray, and I fully understand the distress this may cause.
“Fortunately, many of these travellers will be covered by the ATOL scheme and I urge any constituents who have been affected to get the most up-to-date information and advice from the dedicated website and helplines that have been set up by the Civil Aviation Authority.
“In the longer term, my biggest concern is for the thousands of Thomas Cook employees and their families who will have been left devastated by this news – and especially those who worked at the Thomas Cook store in Falkirk and any of the outsourced staff at the call centre in Larbert who may be affected.”
Support for the workers affected has come from all quarters.
Yesterday (Wednesday) Unite the union, Scotland’s largest trade union representing aviation workers, announced it would hold a drop-in session for hundreds of Thomas Cook workers on Monday, September 30 from 1pm-5pm at its head office in John Smith House, 145 West Regent Street, Glasgow.
Pat McIlvogue, regional industrial officer, said: “Unite is doing everything we can to support the workers at Thomas Cook. There was absolutely no consultation with the Thomas Cook workforce and Unite will be launching legal action on behalf of our members over this failure to consult on the redundancies that have resulted from the firm’s needless collapse.
“Any successful legal action could have a value of up to 90 days’ pay, and unlike no-win-no-fee solicitors, Unite members who use our legal services keep 100 per cent of any award.”
Meanwhile, Larbert-based ZooLab is inviting those affected to apply for sales advisor vacancies with interviews today (Thursday) and tomorrow.
Football team Camelon Juniors has stepped in to offer Thomas Cook former employees and those who have lost out on holidays to attend their match for free on Saturday.
Staff should go to the gate before the 2.30pm kick off at Carmuirs Park against Crossgates Primrose, while holidaymakers should bring their booking details.