Thousands of UK staff who lost their jobs after the sudden collapse of holiday giant Thomas Cook will be offered assistance, Britain said Wednesday.
The Conservative government, alongside the Civil Aviation Authority regulator, is already rushing to fly home 150,000 stranded UK holidaymakers.
At the same time, it has also sought to offer help to the 9,000 UK-based employees who were left without a job. In total, some 22,000 staff around the world were left jobless.
Some of the workforce has been retained to help repatriate thousands of stranded passengers from abroad, but many have already been made redundant.
Debt-plagued Thomas Cook, which struggled against fierce online competition for years and blamed Brexit uncertainty for a recent drop in bookings, declared bankruptcy Monday after failing to secure fresh funds.
“In addition to supporting passengers, we have been working across government to ensure the 9,000 former Thomas Cook employees in the UK and those overseas receive the support that they need as well,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told parliament in a statement on Wednesday.
“The decision by Thomas Cook’s Group Board has been deeply upsetting for employees who are losing their jobs,” said Shapps.
Britain’s jobcentres are now in close contact with Thomas Cook’s liquidators.
The government has also established a task force that will “address the impact on employees and local communities” of the company’s collapse, Shapps said.
“This will help to attempt to overcome barriers to attending training, securing a job and self employment — such as providing childcare costs, tools, work clothes and travel costs,” he said.
Meanwhile, London’s massive repatriation plan for stranded holidaymakers is expected to take two weeks.
About 30,000 people were flown home on Monday and Tuesday, according to the CAA.
The regulator is also working to repatriate a number of pilots and cabin crew who had been stranded abroad due to the timing of its insolvency.
Turning to fierce media and political criticism of the way the debt-plagued company was managed, Shapps added that corporate behaviour would be probed.
Shapps said the government has called upon the Financial Reporting Council “to ensure they prioritise as a matter of urgency” an investigation into both the causes of Thomas Cook’s failure — and the conduct of its directors and auditors.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson on Tuesday questioned whether failing management should receive huge salaries, amid reports that the last five chief executives had pocketed a total of £47 million (53 million euros, $58 million) in pay and bonuses since 2007.
Questions over bonuses
Monday’s bankruptcy followed a lengthy period of chronic financial turmoil after a disastrous series of mergers left it burdened with soaring debt, a large branch network and high costs.
“The travel company went under because successive chief executives failed to steer the group effectively or evolve the business,” said Andy McDonald, transport spokesman for the main opposition Labour party.
McDonald urged the government to make clear that Thomas Cook executives should “return their multi-million-pound undeserved and unwarranted bonuses”.
Shapps replied: “This was in the end a very poorly run business going in the wrong direction at the wrong time.
“He makes a very sensible point querying about the return of bonuses,” adding that the insolvency service had powers to require that they be handed back.