ABOUT 2,500 jobs will be lost at Thomas Cook after it revealed plans to close 195 of its high-street travel agencies.
• Thomas Cook to shed 16 per cent of workforce with closure of 195 high street agencies
• Travel agent says closures are part of restructing plan
The job losses, equating to 16 per cent of its 15,500 workforce in the UK and Ireland, will affect workers in retail positions, as well as administration and back-office staff.
Thomas Cook said the cuts were being made as part of company restructuring and to slash administration costs.
Having recently shut 168 stores, Thomas Cook will be left with 874 travel agencies across Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The company is expected to confirm which stores in Scotland will be affected by the cuts and how many jobs will be lost later today.
In December 2011, Thomas Cook closed seven high-street stores in Hamilton, East Kilbride, Dumfries, Kirkintilloch, Stirling, Paisley and Crieff, leading to the loss of 36 jobs.
The company is going to relocate its three cruise businesses – Thomas Cook Cruise, Cumbria Cruise and The Co-operative Travel’s cruise firm – to Falkirk and Peterborough, from Accrington.
The company is also planning to shut its office in the Lancashire town, affecting around 100 roles, and administrative and managerial jobs are also at risk at its head office in Peterborough and a site in Preston.
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association, which represents staff, said it was “shocked and angry” at the scale of the cuts.
General-secretary Manuel Cortes said: “This constant policy of slash and burn, with the axing of one in four stores and the loss of jobs, is simply self-defeating.
“The company needs new products if it is to come to terms with the age of the internet and prosper in the 21st century. That is the only way to stop this spiral of decline.”
But Thomas Cook’s recently appointed UK and Ireland chief executive, Peter Fankhauser, said the proposals would help return the group to profitability, despite the firm losing £590 million in the last financial year.
As well as shutting shops, the UK’s second biggest travel company has trimmed its airline fleet and sold off hotels after it was forced to borrow an additional £200m in 2011.
Mr Fankhauser said: “It is never easy to make decisions that impact on our people, but we also owe it to our customers to operate efficiently and ensure that when they book their holiday with us, our administrative costs are as low as possible.”
Thomas Cook said the agencies being earmarked for closure did not meet performance targets or were in areas where the group had more than one outlet.
The news came as communications giant BT announced it was to create 1,000 jobs, as it continued to invest in fibre broadband. The engineering jobs are being created at the company’s Openreach business.