119 Co-operative Travel stores to close in Thomas Cook shake-up

Over one hundred Co-operative Travel stores will disappear from the high street as part of a large-scale closure of branches in the joint venture with Thomas Cook.

Over one hundred Co-operative Travel stores will disappear from the high street as part of a large-scale closure of branches in the joint venture with Thomas Cook.

In 2010, the Co-operative Group and Midlands Co-operative made the announcement of entering a joint venture with Thomas Cook. Originally the Co-operative Group held 401 outlets, Midlands 103 and Thomas Cook 803.

This week, Thomas Cook announced that 195 out of 1,069 stores will close — with 119 of these from the former Co-op estate. Seventy-nine of those branches are from the Co-operative Group, with others from Midlands Co-op, which were branded under ‘The Co-operative’ and Ilkeston Travel. In addition some of the former Going Places branches that were rebranded to ‘The Co-operative Travel’ following the joint venture are set to be closed too.

Under the deal, which was completed in October 2011, Thomas Cook own 66.5 per cent of the combined business with the Co-operative Group having a 30 per cent stake and Midlands Society holding 3.5 per cent.

In addition, 2,500 full-time jobs from 15,500 employees in the UK are set to go if the proposed changes go ahead under the 90 day consultation process with staff.

As part of a three-year programme to transform its operations, Thomas Cook is also proposing to close the call centre in Accrington, and will be changing its management structure in branches, by replacing store managers with cluster managers and removing a layer of management in larger branches.

Sharon Ainsworth, National Officer for Shopworkers union Usdaw, which represents 1,200 former Co-operative staff in the joint venture, said: "We were well aware of the challenges that Thomas Cook has been facing in turning their UK business around, but the scale and severity of these redundancies will come as a real shock to our members.

"We will be using the 90 day consultation period to urge the business to look at every possible alternative to redundancy for these hardworking staff. Many of our members are long-serving and I believe they have a lot to offer Thomas Cook in helping the business to build a successful future.

"Even those who are not at risk of redundancy are facing the prospect of cuts to their benefits packages, following a number of cost-cutting proposals which the business has put forward. We will be examining these proposals closely and will defend our members' interests throughout this uncertain time."

Peter Fankhauser, Thomas Cook UK & Ireland’s CEO, said: "It is never easy to make decisions that impact directly on our people, but we also owe it to our customers to shape the business effectively and ensure that, when they book their holiday with us, our administrative costs are as low as possible. As we improve and develop our online capabilities, maintaining a strong presence on the High Street is an important part of our omni-channel strategy. Even after these changes we will still have one of the largest retail networks in UK travel.

“It is essential that we operate with the right number of people as we move forward into the next era for our company, allowing us to meet the future needs of our customers more effectively.  These proposals will mean a stronger Thomas Cook that continues to be a major employer in the UK dedicated to providing excellent holiday experiences to our 23 million customers. We are in consultation with our Unions and employee representative bodies to minimise the impact of these changes and I am speaking personally to all employees today to provide information and support through this period of consultation."

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