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Published on Monday, December 23, 2019

Up to 5,000 ex-Thomas Cook staff still without jobs

A fresh appeal has gone out to the industry to help raise funds for ex-Thomas Cook staff, with as many as 5,000 people still without jobs.

Giving an update to TravelMole about the fundraising campaign in partnership with ABTA Lifeline, former managing director John McEwan said more donations are needed to get those in need through the next three months.

"We've got to keep pushing on. It's quite apparent that there are still lots of people - I'd say between 4,000 and 5,000 - who are still unemployed," he said.

"Although many in the retail side have found new jobs - thanks to John Hays stepping in and Barrhead expanding with new branches - there are many staff who worked in the Peterborough head office or for the airline in Manchester who are still out of work."

So far, with Git Aid contributions, more than £210,000 has been raised by the Just Giving campaign set up by McEwan and former CEO John Donaldson, who led the company in the 1980s and 1990s.

Around £130,000 has already been given out in 'emergency' vouchers to former staff and McEwan expects this figure will reach £150,000.

The rest will be allocated to individuals based on more in-depth analysis of their financial situation.

"We've been happy with the contributions we've had from the wider travel industry, but have we had enough? No, we probably have not," said McEwan.

"I don't know that we've had as much as we'd like from individuals in the industry. We just need to make sure we keep pushing away.

"Of course people were quite sympathetic in the short term but we need to remind them that the problem hasn't gone away. The situation for many former staff is just as difficult, if not even more difficult, and they're still without jobs."

He said Lifeline has taken on additional staff to deal with the unprecedented demand for support. Alongside the money raised by the Just Giving Thomas Cook appeal, a proportion of ABTA Lifeline funds are also being allocated to former Cook staff.

Those in need are getting practical advice from the Manchester Citizens Advice Bureau but some are complaining that they're struggling with the welfare system.

Dozens have contacted the BBC to say they still haven't had financial support because of confusion about the process. Some have even lost their homes and are suffering mental health problems.

"There's a really big inconsistency in how these people are being treated," said McEwan. "You're getting a lot of individual cases where people are facing real hardship."

He said ABTA Lifeline is being approached by many single parents, overwhelmingly female, who have no other means of support.

"We need to keep publicising the appeal as much as possible, though social media, the press, TV and radio. There are clearly ex-Thomas Cook staff who are not aware of the support they can get from ABTA Lifeline and we need to make sure we reach these people," said McEwan.

"I can't stress enough how well ABTA Lifeline is doing in handling the demand but they're only a small charity and it's impossible to reach everybody. It's a real challenge."

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