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THOMAS COOK COLLAPSE: Sudbury community and businesses rally around travel agency staff who lost jobs

The Sudbury community has rallied around former staff of the local Thomas Cook branch, who found themselves out of work this week following the collapse of the 178-year-old business.

The financially-ailing travel firm, which reportedly faced a £200 million black hole, ceased trading nationwide this week after talks to try to secure a last-minute rescue deal failed overnight on Sunday.

Among the 9,000 employees across the UK to be affected are those at the company’s travel agency in North Street, Sudbury, which suddenly shut its doors on Monday morning.

Thomas Cook in Sudbury...PICTURE: Mecha Morton .... (17669408)
Thomas Cook in Sudbury...PICTURE: Mecha Morton .... (17669408)

Since then, local residents have taken to social media to voice their solidarity with those who have lost their jobs, while also lamenting the agency’s closure and the resulting impact on pre-booked travel plans.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen businesses in the Sudbury area pledged to provide free or discounted goods and services to former branch staff when they present their last Thomas Cook payslip, while others offered to help them find alternative employment.

Those offering support include Askew, Bounce Glemsford, Cobblers and Keys, Expert Circles, Femme Cars, Girl Friday, Just Recruitment, Mandy’s Jewellery and Gifts, Mwah Tanning, Penney’s Hair Salon, Ree’s Cafe, The Beauty Cave and 5 Star Sparkle Carpet Upholstery and Oven Cleaning.

Penny Wilby, of local business guide thebestof Sudbury, said: “In times of crisis, the people of Sudbury do not disappoint.

“In a society that seems quite divided at the moment and with so much aggression on social media, it warms the heart that a lovely community like ours can show such thoughtfulness and compassion.”

Following the collapse of Thomas Cook, the Government has confirmed it is working with the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to bring British tourists abroad back home as close as possible to their booked return date.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, pictured, said: “Thomas Cook’s collapse is very sad news for staff and holidaymakers.

“The Government and UK CAA is working round the clock to help people. Our contingency planning has helped acquire planes from across the world and we have put hundreds of people in call centres and at airports.

“But the task is enormous, the biggest peacetime repatriation in UK history, so there are bound to be problems and delays. Please try to be understanding with the staff, who are trying to assist in what is likely to be a very difficult time for them as well.”

It is understood that around one million Thomas Cook customers will lose their future bookings, although many will receive refunds through Atol (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence), a financial protection scheme for package holidays sold by travel businesses in the UK.

Sudbury resident Joe Beggs said on Facebook: “I was going to New York just before Christmas for my son’s birthday treat. Now, I’ve got to go through Atol, try to my get money back and rebook another trip to New York while prices get hiked up.

“But I do feel more sorry for those staff who have been affected. Poor leadership at the top.”

Dawn Ashcroft wrote: “Such lovely ladies that work there, always really helpful. Feel so sorry for all the employees.

“There were 60 of us meant to be flying to Cuba on the 13th for a family wedding. It’s so sad for the bride and groom.”

Charlotte Lammin posted on Monday: “My mum, brother, sister-in-law and the kids flew out yesterday on one of the last flights to Turkey.

“They are there for 10 days and are waiting to hear who they will be returning with.”

A 24-hour helpline has been set up for customers on 0300 303 2800, while further information about replacement flights from abroad can be found at thomascook.caa.co.uk.

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