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Anxious wait for Thomas Cook staff as 195 high street travel agencies set to close

PUBLISHED: 20:13 06 March 2013 | UPDATED: 20:16 06 March 2013

Thomas Cook, Lowestoft

Thomas Cook, Lowestoft

Archant © 2011

Hundreds of Thomas Cook staff across East Anglia are set to learn whether their jobs are to go as the firm gets set to close 195 high street travel agencies and axe administrative staff.

Around 2,500 jobs are to be axed at the holidays group - 16pc of its 15,500 workforce in the UK and Ireland - which will impact workers across its retail network as well as administrative and managerial jobs are also at risk across its head office in Peterborough.

Thomas Cook, which has already closed 168 stores, said the moves were being made as part of a restructuring, and to slash administration costs.

The ailing firm has three stores in Norwich at St Stephens Street, London Street, and Brigg Street, as well as an outlet at the Tesco in Blue Boar Lane. It also two stores in Great Yarmouth, one in King’s Lynn, Diss, Fakenham, and Lowestoft.

When completed the closures mean it will be left with 874 travel agencies across the UK and Northern Ireland.

It will confirm which stores are due to be closed later this week.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association, which represents employees, said it was “shocked and angry” at the scale of the job losses.

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.”

But Thomas Cook’s recently appointed UK and Ireland chief executive, Peter Fankhauser, said the proposals will help return the group to profitability.

Thomas Cook slumped to a £590m loss in its last financial year and is working on plans to slash costs.

As well as shutting stores, the UK’s second-biggest travel company has trimmed its airline fleet and sold off hotels after it was forced to turn to its banks for an additional £200m of loans in 2011.

Mr Fankhauser said: “It is never easy to make decisions that impact directly 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,” he added.

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