Thomas Cook staff forced to rely on handouts after travel firm’s collapse

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Former Thomas Cook staff have found themselves relying on family members and food banks to make ends meet after the travel company collapsed 11 days ago.

Former staff have been left with no choice but to sign on for universal credit; yet with a five-week wait, some have found themselves struggling to afford to pay their mortgages or shop for food.

Betty Knight, from Macclesfield, told the PA news agency that she was forced to go through her direct debits at the bank, cancelling anything they deemed to be a luxury.

However, the former stewardess, who had worked at the company for almost 13 years, admitted she was “one of the lucky ones”, with some couples both being employed by the company.

She said: “I don’t have children, but some people have lost two incomes and they don’t have a way of feeding their families this month.

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The Department for Work and Pensions said although Thomas Cook staff would not be treated any differently to any other claimants, they could apply for a fast-track payment, which would give them a 100% monthly advance from day one.

Knight said her initial application to the job centre had been lost, resulting in a week-long delay. She has now signed up to an agency and has been given ad-hoc work, on a zero-hours contract, as a receptionist at a local garage.

She said: “This is what it is now. No job security, zero-hours contract, no pension, no sick pay, no holiday contributions.

“We went to a union meeting and everyone was upset because we are now navigating a world we knew nothing about.

“We thought Thomas Cook was a job for life, we were a family.”

Another staff member told PA: “I haven’t been paid. It’s been really stressful as we were advised by our union to sign on to Jobseeker’s Allowance straight away.

“So as well as having to fill out all the forms for that, which most of us had no idea what we were doing, we have also had to fill in a lot of forms to claim for our redundancy.

“On top of that stress we are all figuring out how we were going pay our bills and we only had a matter of days to notify our banks and mortgage people that we may not be able to pay.”

One former staff member said she was owed well over £2,000. She said she had been offered help from family and friends, in the form of online shopping.

As The Canary reported on 3 October:

Taxpayers will have to stump up £60m to fund unpaid wages, holiday pay and redundancy costs for Thomas Cook’s 9,500 staff following the travel firm’s collapse, according to early estimates. The cost is in addition to the government’s own £100m estimates for the biggest repatriation in living memory of 150,000 holidaymakers when the business went bust last month.

Politicians, meanwhile, have slammed Thomas Cook’s management for its “shameful” behaviour ahead of the firm’s collapse. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, for example, tweeted:

These workers have lost their jobs because of the shameful practices of Thomas Cook’s directors.

They gave themselves £29 million in bonuses despite plummeting profits.

The government must take a public stake in Thomas Cook to secure this company and save 9,000 jobs.

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