Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union representing airline workers, has reacted with shock and anger after it was revealed today (Tuesday 15 October) that the transport secretary Grant Shapps barred the directors of Thomas Cook from speaking to government ministers in the fortnight before its collapse.

As part of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee’s hearing into Thomas Cook’s collapse the former chief executive Officer of Thomas Cook Peter Fankhauser revealed that he had met the transport secretary Grant Shapps on the evening of Monday 9 September.

Grant Shapps barred contact

During the course of that meeting Shapps informed Thomas Cook that its point of contact with the UK government must be with senior officials at the Department for Transport (DfT) and not to contact any government ministers directly.

Backstop needed

Thomas Cook abided by that decree and remained hopeful of receiving a ‘backstop facility’ of a maximum of £200 million to ensure Thomas Cook could continue to operate during the winter of 2021, until the DfT informed them on Sunday 22 September the money would not be provided “as it would set a precedent’. The company went into compulsory liquidation on Monday 23 September.

During the fortnight that Thomas Cook was barred from speaking to the UK government, Thomas Cook held detailed negotiations with government ministers of five countries: Germany, Spain, Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. These governments were highly concerned about the impact the possible collapse of Thomas Cook would have on their tourism and transport industries.

Government questions to answer

Unite national officer for civil aviation Oliver Richardson said: “Grant Shapps has a lot of questions to answer about his role in Thomas Cook’s collapse. The way in which the government washed it hands of Thomas Cook is extraordinary and shocking.

 “The 3,000 Unite members, the majority of whom worked for the profit making airline, will be angry that they were sacked without warning and without pay, yet no government minister was even prepared to sit down with the company to discuss potential assistance.

 "While other governments throughout Europe were prepared to support parts of the Thomas Cook business and to seek to alleviate the damage faced by their tourism and transport industries, our government had installed barriers to prevent direct meetings.

 “There is no evidence that the DfT was ever fully across the detail of what Thomas Cook needed to stay afloat or even to assist in separating the profitable parts of the business, to allow for their survival. This appears to be a governmental failure on a grand scale.”


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.

Email: barckley.sumner@unitetheunion.org

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.