Thomas Cook: ‘I put my uniform on and started to cry’

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Media captionFormer Thomas Cook cabin crew manager Steve Kearney says the situation seems “desperate”.

Former Thomas Cook employee Steve Kearney says he may struggle to make ends meet given that staff of the failed tour operator have not been paid.

Mr Kearney said he cried as he joined former colleagues at Manchester Airport on Friday to meet the Unite union to discuss how to recover unpaid wages.

“I put my uniform on today and as I got to the airport I started to cry… I’m coming here in a uniform and I’ve got nowhere to go,” he said.

Thomas Cook collapsed on Monday after last-minute negotiations aimed at saving the 178-year-old holiday firm failed.

Latest figures from the Insolvency Service show that 6,000 Thomas Cook staff in the UK have been made redundant and just over 3,000 employees are currently retained.

Mr Kearney says the past week has “felt like a bereavement”.

“One day I had a job, the next day I had no job. The next day I had no nothing. I had no money coming in,” the former cabin crew manager says.

Mr Kearney said he had received no information from Thomas Cook management, but was “incensed” by two videos shared online of staff and executives at sister airline Condor celebrating a €380m bailout loan with the German government, while Thomas Cook was allowed to collapse into liquidation.

“I thought that was incredibly insensitive… when they know what we’re going through. There has been no communication from them [the Condor unit] whatsoever, for any help,” he says.

Image caption

John Tunstall (centre) was among Thomas Cook ex-staff at Manchester Airport trying to get answers

Thomas Cook engineer John Tunstall had been with the company for 25 years.

His wife was a cabin crew member for the airline and Mr Tunstall says the family has no cash to fall back on.

“I’m going to follow the work abroad for us to survive. The big worry now is bills, and Christmas coming,” he says.

Husband and wife Colin and Louise Griffiths worked for Thomas Cook as cabin crew and have four-year-old twins. They said that the news that they would not be paid on Monday next week was “devastating”.

“We didn’t know which way to turn. We’ve still got an immense amount of money due to come out of our account on Tuesday and I haven’t got a penny,” Mr Griffiths says.

Image caption

Colin and Louise Griffiths were long-serving cabin crew at Thomas Cook

To pay the airport’s parking fees to attend the union meeting the Griffiths’ are using the cash float from his former job in the cabin.

“I just fell to pieces,” Mrs Griffiths says. “We’ve been to the job centre together, which is not somewhere I ever thought we’d go together.

“My career’s over and that’s all I’ve only ever known since I was 20… but I’ve got to do something else to keep the money coming in,” she says.

Next steps

Unite said all staff made redundant would now be treated by the company’s liquidators as regular creditors owed money, so the union is asking the government to force the liquidators to prioritise repaying staff wages with any money recouped from asset sales.

The meeting was held to update former Thomas Cook workers on how to claim redundancy from the government, and to get a form of compensation from the company for failing to inform and consult them on the job losses.

The meeting in Manchester will be followed by others in Scotland, Bristol and Gatwick, a union spokesperson said.

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