Their anger is palpable – and understandable. “It was a struggle every day; I just had to keep going for my son,” former Thomas Cook cabin crew member Carolyn Russell tells TTG. “I was in dire straits.”
She was not alone, as we explore this week in a special report examining the human cost of the Thomas Cook collapse, with many staff still suffering, four months on from its collapse (p14).
Single mums forced to use food banks, and vital government benefits “switched off”.
The industry might have started to move on, but for many of the 9,000 ex-Cook staff it will be a long time before the spectre of what happened on 23 September fades.
Yes, a huge number of former Cook employees have found new roles, not least within Hays Travel (and even at TTG).
But as former cabin crew member and branch leader for Unite Martin Browne points out: “There are still loads of people really struggling.”
It’s a fact Abta Lifeline is all too aware of. The charity has handed out £140,000 worth of food vouchers so far and needs to urgently replenish the £250,000 in funds it raised last year for the cause.
As for the former staff, they remain united on one point: lessons must be learnt. Because while the speed of the government in repatriating stranded Cook customers was remarkable, its response to the thousands of staff suddenly left without jobs was shameful.
The Department for Work and Pensions says it is “sorry if people have experienced delayed payments”. But sorry doesn’t pay the bills.
Real remorse will be demonstrated through heeding the words of ex-Cook staff. “Emergency benefits must be put in place, and on a bigger scale, to deal with collapses like this,” says Russell.
This tragedy will only be repeated if they are not.