Thomas Cook chiefs barred from speaking to ministers before collapse
Published on Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Unions have accused the Government of a ‘failure on a grand scale’ over its decision to ‘wash its hands’ of Thomas Cook.
Unite, which represents airline workers, said it was shocked and angry after it was revealed today that transport secretary Grant Shapps had barred Thomas Cook directors from speaking directly to government ministers in the two weeks leading up to its collapse.
Giving evidence to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee, former CEO Peter Fankhauser said he met Shapps on the evening of Monday September 9.
He claimed that during this meeting he was told he could not directly contact any government ministers but must only communicate with senior Department for Transport officials.
He said Thomas Cook abided and remained hopeful of receiving a ‘backstop facility’ of a maximum of £200 million.
This would have allowed Thomas Cook to continue operating during the winter of 2021.
During that time, Thomas Cook held detailed negotiations with government ministers in Germany, Spain, Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria.
These governments were highly concerned about the impact the possible collapse of Thomas Cook would have on their tourism and transport industries, said Unite.
“Grant Shapps has a lot of questions to answer about his role in Thomas Cook’s collapse,” said Unite national officer for civil aviation Oliver Richardson.
“The way in which the government washed it hands of Thomas Cook is extraordinary and shocking.
“The 3,000 Unite members, the majority of whom worked for the profit making airline, will be angry that they were sacked without warning and without pay, yet no government minister was even prepared to sit down with the company to discuss potential assistance.
“While other governments throughout Europe were prepared to support parts of the Thomas Cook business and to seek to alleviate the damage faced by their tourism and transport industries, our government had installed barriers to prevent direct meetings.
“There is no evidence that the DfT was ever fully across the detail of what Thomas Cook needed to stay afloat or even to assist in separating the profitable parts of the business, to allow for their survival. This appears to be a governmental failure on a grand scale.”
Meanwhile the British Airline Pilots Association said it also places significant blame with the UK Government who could have backed a temporary bridging facility to keep Thomas Cook going.
“We continue to support Thomas Cook pilots in finding new work but the scars of this collapse will no doubt run deep with them for many years to come,” said BALPA general secretary Brian Strutton.
TSSA general secretary, Manuel Cortes, added: “The fact that no British Minister contacted Thomas Cook during the six days before its collapse is utterly damning.
“We can’t have a Business Secretary that doesn’t bat for Britain, doesn’t lift a finger when 9,000 jobs are on the line. The public will be furious at this lack of action when the business could have been saved.”
He called for Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom to be fired, saying her position was ‘totally untenable’.
“What we have learned today shows that while our Government was prepared to write off this iconic British brand for ideological reasons alone several overseas Governments were more than willing to help.
“They believed in Thomas Cook – one has to ask – why did this appalling and inert Conservative Government not feel likewise?”