Last ditch talks to avoid Thomas Cook strike

By Doug Newhouse |

Thomas-Cook-smallThomas Cook Airlines’ UK cabin crew moved closer to strike action yesterday after an estimated 50% of its Unite Union members voted in favour in its ongoing dispute over ‘health and safety concerns’.


Unite – the UK’s largest union – announced yesterday (25 May, Wednesday) that 74.4% of the airline’s cabin crew who voted backed strike action yesterday, over what they regard as ‘dangerous’ changes to rest breaks. The union also continues to maintain that the airline’s new Airshoppen preorder duty free service is part of the problem.


Thomas-Cook-2015-2016-catalogueFormal talks are continuing today and next Tuesday (31 May) between the union and management to try to resolve the dispute at the UK’s official conciliation service ACAS.



First reported earlier this month, the dispute has since escalated with the union claiming that prior to recent rule changes, cabin crew were routinely entitled to 20-minute breaks every six hours. In an earlier statement, the union said: “A member of cabin crew will typically work 10 to 15-hour shifts and up to 60 hours a week.


“Shifts include pre-flight preparations, safety and security checks, boarding, inflight service of headsets, drinks, food, duty free sales and other promotions, such as scratch cards.”


“On short-haul flights this process is repeated for in-bound flights after a turnaround of usually less than one hour, which includes restocking and preparing the aircraft while under extreme time pressures.”


The union also claims that the airline’s relatively new ’Airshoppen’ preorder duty free service is a major contributor to the problem, with crew taking up to two hours to sort and bag orders prior to take off and subsequently collect the relevant payments from passengers inflight.



The new pan-European pre-order service.



Commenting yesterday, Unite national officer Oliver Richardson said: “We hope that the company take note of this strong vote in favour of action and work with us constructively to resolve the dispute and avoid any potential industrial action.”


Thomas Cook Airlines carries around 6.7m passengers to around 60 tourist destinations in the US, Europe Africa and Asia and operates from 10 airports across the UK. As reported, there have also been rumours that Thomas Cook might be considering selling its 91-strong aircraft fleet.


For more information on the background to this story, see TRBusiness’ initial report on this dispute dated May 7 by clicking here:


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