Devastated Thomas Cook agents have described their “heartbreak” after learning their employer had gone bust leaving 9,000 UK staff without jobs.
Many had sleepless nights awaiting the news, which arrived in the early hours of Monday. Out of the 9,000 staff, around 4,000 were employed in Thomas Cook’s 563 retail outlets.
A sense of togetherness was palpable as staff looked to future opportunities in the industry while mourning the firm they had served – yellow heart emojis were shared on social media in a nod to Cook’s logo.
Kerry Latham, assistant manager at Middlebrook, was nearing 18 years with Thomas Cook and worked on Sunday. She said: “Never in a million years did we dream this. Everything we were hearing was the deal was going to happen. Sunday night we became slightly terrified. I slept maybe 20 minutes. Most staff have worked at Thomas Cook a long time. It became part of your life and it feels like that has been taken away.”
Debbie Wood, of Thomas Cook’s Woking branch, started with the company in 1976. She said: “It’s heartbreaking. It was more than just a job for a lot of us. You do it for the satisfaction of finding someone the right holiday.”
Kelly Ates, deputy manager at the Gateshead branch, spent 27 years at Thomas Cook. She said: “The saddest thing is we are not going to be a team anymore. I ate, breathed and slept Thomas Cook.”
Phil Gardner, Thomas Cook’s sales, e-commerce and marketing director, had to tell hundreds of staff they had lost their jobs. In a Facebook post, he said: “My heart goes out to all of you. You have all been a pleasure to work with and have genuinely made me very happy in the best job I ever had.”
Faisal Farooq was a top-seller in Thomas Cook’s long-haul scheduled team in Peterborough, making £3.5 million in sales in three years – and is now searching for work to avoid defaulting on his mortgage. “It’s devastating,” he said, having lost his pay and bonus.
Candy Homes, a sales advisor at head office who spent 34 years at Thomas Cook, drove 100 miles on Sunday to see her mother who had suffered a mild stroke. “I spent Sunday worrying about my 87-year-old mum and my job,” she said. “Thomas Cook was my life. I’m like a stick of rock – if you cut me, I have Thomas Cook at my heart.”
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