TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has said Ministers must act immediately to save Britain's high street travel trade in the wake of the Coronavirus crisis.
Cortes, the boss of the travel and transport union, spoke out after writing to Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, (23rd March) outlining his concerns that the economic fallout from the pandemic posed 'an existential threat to jobs and industry' and calling for 'urgent action' saying 'there is a real risk that travel shops on the high street will be a thing of the past'.
TSSA has now received a reply from Business Minister, Kwasi Kwarteng in which the Minister states 'we encourage travel company owners to fully explore the Government’s comprehensive support package' and ‘we are closely monitoring the impact on the travel industry'.
Manuel Cortes said:
"Warm words from the Minister, three months on from my letter simply does not do justice to the gravity of the situation. Our members, and those working right across the travel trade, need urgent action.
"From where I stand it looks as though the Government has its fingers in its ears over the plight of our travel trade which has been so badly hit by Covid-19. What we need to know, without delay, is what the plan is for the future of our British travel trade which is valued by many millions around our country.
"I am more than happy to work with Ministers on this.
"The past twelve months have seen the collapse of both Flybe and Thomas Cook due to lack of government action. Thomas Cook’s demise alone cost the taxpayer more than £150 million. With shoppers returning to our high streets. it's vital to learn the lessons from Thomas Cook to make sure travel shops flourish once more."
Manuel Cortes’ letter to Alok Sharma
Alok Sharma, MP House of Commons London, SW1A 0AA
23rd March 2020
Dear Mr Sharma, I write to you today to urge immediate action to save our high street travel shops.
The Coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented event, posing an existential threat to jobs and industry. Without urgent action from your department there is a real risk that travel shops on the high street will be a thing of the past.
Just three days ago Hays announced that they were putting 880 workers – 20% of their workforce – onto zero hours contracts and cutting the hours of many more staff. Just four weeks ago, Hays was a company on upward trajectory yet now the business is losing revenue by the hour.
Without effective government intervention we will see more announcements like this one. The last twelve months have seen the collapse of both Flybe and Thomas Cook due to lack of government action. Thomas Cook’s demise alone cost the taxpayer well over £156 million in repatriation and redundancy costs. Unpaid wages, Employment Tribunal claims and unemployment benefits for workers still without jobs is costing the country millions more.
The true cost of Flybe’s demise is still unknown but cannot be underestimated. On top of these is the social cost to the country of losing well-loved brands from the high street. When the coronavirus threat diminishes, and shoppers return to the high street we must ensure that there is in fact a high street to return to. It is vital to learn the lessons from Thomas Cook and Flybe and intervene now, to save the jobs of all the travel shop employees and the character and charm of our high streets.
TSSA General Secretary
Reply – from Kwasi Kwarteng (30 June)
Thank you for your email of 23 March, addressed to the Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP, about support for high street travel shops. I am replying on behalf of the Department, and sincerely apologise for the delay in responding.
We appreciate these are extremely difficult circumstances for travel companies. We are alert to the concerns of travel businesses across the country. We encourage travel company owners to fully explore the Government’s comprehensive support package.
This includes the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, the recently extended Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, VAT payment deferrals for firms and £330bn worth of Government backed and guaranteed loans to support businesses.
In addition, the Chancellor has announced a Bounce Back loan scheme to help small businesses access loans of up to £50,000, with a 100% Government-backed guarantee for lenders. More information on the support available for businesses can be found here: [link no longer available].
We are closely monitoring the impact on the travel industry. We will continue to engage with stakeholders to assess how we can most effectively support the sector during the recovery period. Thank you again for taking the time to write.
Yours sincerely, RT HON KWASI KWARTENG MP Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth