Unite supports Thomas Cook workers develop new skills

The news of the collapse of holiday company Thomas Cook leaving thousands of holiday makers stranded made the headlines in October, however this also had a massive impact on nearly 10,000 staff in the company who faced redundancy. Many of these staff were represented by Unite the Union – who stepped up to help them and provide learning support to improve their job chances.

Thomas Cook workers helped by Unite

Unite Learning Organisers across the country were kept busy running advice sessions and classes for Thomas Cook workers.

In Gatwick , Unite South East Region and Unite’s Thomas Cook’s branch chair, Matt Irish, arranged a mass meeting where Thomas Cook staff were addressed by the Job Centre Plus, who answered questions on benefits, as well as the National Careers Service who talked about the short courses they offered. As a result of that meeting the NCS ran two workshops on writing CV’s. A third workshop has now been organised.

Unite is making a lot of use of it’s Learn With Unite offer, and signposting members to this and other offers, they are also setting up bespoke courses for staff who have lost their jobs.

Matt said:

We have currently run two Level 2 Certificate for ICT users courses, with a third class starting this month. We are currently recruiting for a fourth class. We are intending to run a Functional Skills (English) course, an employability skills course and a Train the Trainers course along some short ICT courses.”

We have also run Entry 3 Award in Introduction to British Values and Level 1 Awards in Equality and Diversity, Understanding Employment, business and Enterprise, Environmental Sustainability, Health and Safety”

Across the country Unite’s South West Education Officer Matt Gillett was setting up support for workers based at Bristol Airport.

Matt said:

Following the recent announcement of the Thomas Cook closure as part of our support to Unite members we asked City of Bristol College to deliver a training course to enhance our members employability skills and support their journey back into work.”

The learning in the South West came out of a meeting on 4th October with around 50 Thomas Cook members which was addressed by Unite’s Regional Secretary Steve Preddy and Regional Officer Tim Morris, and where a solicitor gave advice on claims.

Matt explained:

We spoke on behalf of Learn With Unite and also introduced the City of Bristol College and NCS – it was working with other Unite industrial departments to support members and expressions of interest following that meeting that fed into the course we organised.”

Matt thanked the College for its support arranging the two day course, where they were joined by a member from Accolade Wines.

Cara Summers, aged 48, had worked for the holiday company for 24 years and said it was ‘incredibly sad’ to leave the business. She added:

This course has been really helpful. Having been in  one job for so long, I had to start all over again with my CV and go back to looking for work, which was really new to me. This course has given me the tools to apply for new positions and the self-confidence to utilise my transferrable skills to progress.”

It wasn’t just Thomas Cook staff on the course, Paul Loveridge, aged 50, was made redundant after 10 years at Accolade Wines. He is now considering doing some kind of Construction or Carpentry course at the College to improve his future career prospects.

He said:

I have really enjoyed this course and it has improved my chances of looking and obtaining a job. I think it this has prepared me for job interviews and knowing how to answer key questions. I am going to look for work but I am also considering coming to the college to study something new.”

Steve Preddy explained the importance of the union supporting former Thomas Cook workers:

The loss of Thomas Cook jobs came as a devastating blow to the workforce. Behind the statistics are real people and families, each facing their own personal challenges.  Unite responded swiftly in providing assistance to members via a range of services and support mechanisms, at a time of great personal need.”

Through our network of learning teams across the country and in conjunction with colleges and other training providers, Unite was able to provide meaningful assistance and guidance to people, as they look to rebuild their lives and explore future employment opportunities"

Learn with Unite has consistently provided a positive service to members facing redundancy and in looking to develop skill sets in ongoing areas of work"