Peterborough MP Lisa Forbes joins Thomas Cook workers in Westminster protest

Lisa Forbes at the protest
Lisa Forbes at the protest
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The MP for Peterborough Lisa Forbes joined Thomas Cook workers in their protest at Westminster earlier today (Wednesday).

Staff demonstrated noisily outside the Business Department amid claims they were “abandoned” by the Government, and they also handed in petitions to 10 Downing Street and the Business Department calling for a full inquiry into the travel giant’s collapse and for the company’s directors to pay back their bonuses.

The protest at Westminster from Thomas Cook staff. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

The protest at Westminster from Thomas Cook staff. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

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They expressed anger at the way they found out about the company’s demise and called on Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom to make sure they receive their unpaid wages.

They were not paid their monthly wages on Monday and many said they were having problems with rent and mortgage payments and were having to borrow money from friends and family.

Scores of workers travelled from across the country, including Peterborough, where the company’s head office is based, to join the protests, holding up banners which read ‘Pay Up’ and ‘Never Again’.

The protest at Westminster from Thomas Cook staff. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

The protest at Westminster from Thomas Cook staff. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Ms Forbes said: “I was proud to show solidarity with Thomas Cook employees at their protest in Westminster earlier today. We were also joined by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

“Thank you to Unite the Union for organising the event and bringing the Thomas Cook workers to Westminster to meet Members of Parliament.

“These hard-working people were not paid their wages this month and have been offered food bank vouchers by the Government until their benefits can be paid.

“Unite have said that many have applied for Universal Credit, but will not receive this until the end of October.

The protest at Westminster from Thomas Cook staff. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

The protest at Westminster from Thomas Cook staff. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

“How is it right that after weeks of turmoil, these former Thomas Cook employees are being left by the wayside?

“Workers from Thomas Cook branches across the country, including the HQ in Peterborough, came to Parliament today to make their voice heard.

“They have felt abandoned throughout this entire process, whether it be the Government refusing to help save the company in the first place, or there not being contingencies in place to ensure that they are simply paid on time.

“It is imperative that the Government finally takes action and offer deeds not words to Thomas Cook employees. It’s the very least they deserve.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at today's rally. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at today's rally. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Martin Brown, who worked as a cabin crew manager for Thomas Cook based in Manchester, said: “It is disgraceful that a company of this size has been allowed to fail because of government apathy.

“The airline side of the business was profitable, so how could it fold? It is disgraceful. I’m having to borrow money from a friend because I haven’t been paid.”

He added that he believed the company could have been saved if Parliament had not been prorogued, denying MPs the chance to force the Government to intervene.

Gurprit Kaur, a cabin crew member based at East Midlands Airport, said: “We want to know why this company was left to go out of business and why the bosses paid themselves so much money, so we can stop this happening again in the future.

“I had come back from a flight and was due to work the following day when I was woken up in the middle of the night by a message telling me not to report for duty.

“Right up to the last minute we were being told by the company that the business was financially sound and not to believe the media hype.

“The Government should have put procedures in place so this could not happen.”

Unite’s assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “The fact that workers are coming to Parliament from all parts of the UK demonstrates just how angry workers are with the Government, which they rightly believe has abandoned them.

“This week, workers have been left with no income as their wages were not paid.

“Workers do not understand how the profitable Thomas Cook airline was allowed to collapse while the European subsidiaries were able to continue to fly.

“The very least the Thomas Cook workers deserve is to receive an answer to the question as to why the company was allowed to collapse, as well as an explanation from the Government as to its lack of action in the lead-up.”

Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), said the Government must ensure that workers are paid what they are owed in full and without delay.

“This means for the work carried out to the point at which the company went bust, but also redundancy payments and any other entitlements. This is no small beer for those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. In many cases, it will likely amount to several months’ pay,” he said.

“I will be telling ministers and everyone else at the task force meeting the choice is simple - pay up or be sued.”

The TSSA has agreed to make a payment of £300 to each of its Thomas Cook members from the union’s benevolent fund.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn met the workers outside Parliament, saying: “Today we showed support for the Thomas Cook workers who’ve done an incredible job with their company over many years.

“They’ve showed real responsibility when the company collapsed to make sure that the passengers got home.

“The Government, on the other hand, stood idly by, watched the company collapse and did nothing about the incredible payments that were made, the bonuses to directors and managers of the company, while the workers lost their jobs and lost their wages.

“So even now we’re demanding the Government intervene to make sure this company survives. It is a viable business, it is a valuable business and an iconic name in the travel industry.”

Mr Corbyn said something should be done about the wages of the chief executive, Peter Fankhauser especially considering how uncertain things are for the former employees.

“I think the workers here have given a very clear message that they have been treated abominably, they’ve lost their jobs, they’ve lost their income while the directors have walked away with massive bonuses,” he added.

“Maybe those directors as an act of conscience should recognise the hurt the workers feel. They’re after all the ones who made the company what it is. It’s a great name and I want to see it flying again.”