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Consultation update

26 March 2013

Update on the latest news in the campaign against store closures and redundancies.

Stunned disbelief. Low morale. Demoralised. Ground into the floor. Stressed out. The final straw.

This is how TSSA reps in Thomas Cook have described the response of many staff in their regions to Thomas Cook’s announcement of 6th March. And quite right too. Thomas Cook’s proposals for a pay freeze, store closures, job losses and attacks on terms and conditions of employment amount to the biggest attack on its staff in the company’s history.

But it’s important not to let demoralisation get the upper hand. No-one should accept that there is anything inevitable about Thomas Cook’s proposals. Properly organised co-ordination between the different unions, together with effective arguments and campaigning, can force concessions and retreats by Thomas Cook.

And that means making sure that the initial response of resignation and demoralisation is replaced by a determination to mount the campaign needed to challenge the company’s plans for pay cuts and dismissals.
 

A consultation period of a minimum of 90 days began on 6th March

In previous consultations the initial response from some members, especially those based in stores scheduled for closure, has been: ‘Why wait 90 days? Far better to put an end to the uncertainty and get everything over and done with as soon as possible!’

Such a response is understandable, and even inevitable. And staff in shops proposed for closure will now also find themselves confronted with a collapse in business. Local media have publicised the names of stores proposed for closure. Result: customers go elsewhere, to a shop they know will still be open at the time of their holiday.

If only Thomas Cook put as much effort into advertising its holidays as it does into publicising which stores it plans to close – then maybe it would not need to shut down so many stores! But there are good reasons why the consultation period, by law, must last for 90 days, or even longer.

The consultation period is an opportunity for trade unions and other staff reps to get more information about the company’s proposals, to challenge them, and to put forward alternatives which could save stores and jobs.

All of this takes time. In fact: the quicker the consultation, the more it is to the disadvantage of employees. A quick consultation makes it easier for employers to railroad through their proposals. It is important to understand that at this stage everything that Thomas Cook has proposed is just that: proposals, which are open to challenge.

By law, consultation must be “meaningful”. But consultation cannot be meaningful if decisions have already been made before the consultation has been completed. This would reduce consultation to a sham. So, if you are in a store proposed for closure and have been told that the store is definitely closing, or if you are a store manager and have been told that your post is definitely being axed, let us know (e-mail: crookes@tssa.org.uk) as such statements are in breach of the legal requirement for meaningful consultation.

 

Proposed Store Closures: Submitting Counter-Proposals 

Proposed Store Closures (2013): TSSA Supplementary Guidelines

Counter Proposal example

Cluster Management

Joint campaign

Immediately after Thomas Cook’s announcement of 6th March, the TSSA wrote to all unions recognised by Thomas Cook proposing a joint campaign in defence of members’ jobs and terms and conditions of employment.

Whether you work in Thomas Cook or Co-operative Travel, it obviously makes sense for all recognised unions to pool their resources and energies. Unite has recently agreed to this proposal. At the time of writing, we are still waiting for a response from USDAW, which has also been asked by the union for store managers (the National Association of Co-operative Officials) to act on their behalf.

If you know anyone who works in a local Co-op Travel store, you may want to get in touch with them, so that Thomas Cook cannot play us off against each other. At what is a time of crisis for all employees of the  joint venture, we cannot afford the luxury of divisions which play into the employer’s hands.

Thomas Cook is proposing to scrap managers’ posts in all core stores, sizes 1-3, and to replace them by ‘cluster managers’ who will be responsible for two to five stores. Each individual core store would have an ‘assistant manager’ (although it’s difficult to understand how there can be an assistant manager when there is no manager to assist.) Large stores would continue to have a manager, but Thomas Cook is proposing to cut the number of CSMs in these stores by around 25%.

The company is yet to provide a lot of the details needed to fully understand these proposals, although it has now agreed to provide the TSSA with the proposed job role for cluster managers and a map of the proposed clusters. But even from the information already provided, the proposal to replace managers by cluster managers has all the signs of a disaster in the making. (And managers are also already concerned about the possible absence of a ‘level playing field’ in selecting cluster managers: Won’t managers, they are asking, belonging to the same part of the joint venture as their Regional Sales Manager be given preferential treatment?) The TSSA is preparing a document arguing the case against the creation of cluster managers, and challenging the proposal to slash the number of CSMs.

If you have any arguments which you think would be worthwhile raising to challenge the new management structure proposed by the company, please e-mail them to the TSSA (crookes@tssa.org.uk)
 

Reps meeting

TSSA reps (Thomas Cook) from Scotland, Northern Ireland and England met in York last Monday (11th March). The meeting discussed how to respond to Thomas Cook’s announcement of 6th March. Proposals for an initial response which were agreed at the meeting included:
 

  • Working together with other trade unions in Thomas Cook to oppose the proposed contractual changes, and also to submit a joint pay claim (see above).
  • Producing an updated set of guidelines on how to draw up counter-proposals if your store is proposed for closure.
  • Producing a document opposing the new management structure which has been proposed by Thomas Cook (see above).
  • Requesting that Thomas Cook provide us with a list of e-mail addresses for all stores and store managers, and postal addresses of all stores, so that the TSSA can exercise its right to have access to all affected staff during the consultation.
  • Requesting further information from Thomas Cook in relation to its Corporate and Group proposals and Sales Centres/ Homeworking/Mainstream proposals.
  • Developing a media strategy to try to keep the issue of Thomas Cook’s proposals in the news.
  • Looking into the possibility of a Thomas Cook campaign page on the TSSA website, as a single and easy-to-access point of contact for all news and information about TSSA campaigning against the company’s proposals.


From a report on the Thomas Cook shareholders’ meeting held in February:

“Almost a third of shareholders voted against travel operator Thomas Cook’s proposed remuneration report at an annual general meeting. The report stated that Chief Executive Harriet Green had received an annual salary of £680,000 in 2012, with a maximum annual bonus equal to 225% of her base salary for July 2012 to September 2013 [i.e. around £1,500,000]. Thomas Cook said that the higher initial bonus was designed to incentivise her to carry out the company’s transformation plan. Chief Financial Officer Michael Healey was paid an annual salary of £480,000 in 2012, with the possibility of earning a maximum bonus of 150% of pay.”

So: the more of us who get sacked, and the deeper the cuts in the terms and con- ditions of employment of those who still have a job, the bigger the bonus for the Chief Executive.
 

“Oh no! Manny’s offered to come back and give us a hand!”

The financial difficulties faced by Thomas Cook are not due to staff being overpaid. Nor is it due to staff not working hard enough.

Thomas Cook is where it is thanks to the policies pursued by Manny Fontenla-Novoa, backed by the company’s directors and top managers. As ‘Travel Trade Gazette’ puts it: “Cook’s present troubles (are) due to the previous management team. The fall-out of the Cook/Co-op venture is another symptom of what can go wrong when an iconic British business gets out of control. ... His (Manny’s) investment strategy was geared to the high street at a time when every other travel company was investing online.”

Harriet Green did a good job in clearing out Manny’s cronies from the boardroom. But that does not justify her now turning her guns on Thomas Cook employees and trying to make them foot the bill for Manny’s disastrous polices.

 

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