Thomas Cook to cut 2,500 jobs in UK

Wed Mar 6, 2013 9:12am EST
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By Rhys Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - Travel firm Thomas Cook (TCG.L: Quote) said it would cut 2,500 UK jobs and close 195 stores in Britain as the euro crisis, high fuel costs and unrest in key destinations like Egypt and Greece take their toll on the holiday business.

The 172-year-old group has struggled over the last two years with a slump in sales that has forced it to renegotiate bank loans and sell off planes and stores to lighten its debt load while facing a string of profit warnings.

Most of the job losses would be in its retail network and back-office positions and would involve the closure of 195 of its 1,069 UK stores, said the world's oldest travel group, which has a total workforce of 15,500 in the UK and Ireland.

Thomas Cook said jobs at its head offices at Peterborough in eastern England and Preston in the northwest were at risk, while its Accrington office, also in the northwest, would be shut. It also plans to change the terms and conditions of some employees.

"We firmly believe these proposals will mean a better, more profitable, Thomas Cook that continues to be a major employer in the UK," said the group's UK and Ireland chief executive Peter Fankhauser in a statement.

"Thomas Cook needs to make the proposed changes to secure our future," he said.

Travel firms and airlines across Europe have seen bookings fall over the last two years, hit by the euro zone debt crisis, high fuel costs and social and political turmoil in popular holiday destinations such as Greece, Egypt and Tunisia.

Thomas Cook has been hit particularly hard by tough trading conditions in Britain where its core customer base of families with young children has been affected by the economic downturn.   Continued...

A worker changes the window display of Thomas Cook in Loughborough, central England December 14, 2011. REUTERS/Darren Staples