Staff under threat at Thomas Cook?

Staff at Thomas Cook branches in Castleford and Pontefract could be facing the axe as the high street travel agent looks to slash 2,500 jobs nationwide.

The company announced today that 195 stores will close across the UK which could include sites in Carlton Lanes Shopping Centre and Carlton Street in Castleford, and Market Place in Pontefract.

Thomas Cook has entered a 90-day consultation period with employees as part of a three-year programme to “transform” its operations.

Peter Fankhauser, Thomas Cook UK & Ireland’s chief executive, said: “It is never easy to make decisions that impact directly on our people, but we also owe it to our customers to shape the business effectively and ensure that, when they book their holiday with us, our administrative costs are as low as possible.

“As we improve and develop our online capabilities, maintaining a strong presence on the High Street is an important part of our strategy.

“Even after these changes we will still have one of the largest retail networks in UK travel.”

Mr Fankhauser said it is essential the company, which has 1,069 stores, operates “with the right number of people.”

Shopworkers’ Union Usdaw – which represents 1,200 members of the former Co-operative Travel and Midlands Co-op businesses which joined Thomas Cook in 2010 – will meet the holiday firm to discuss the closure of 119 Co-operative stores and 76 Thomas Cook stores.

Staff at bed company Dreams on Baileygate Industrial Estate could also lose their jobs after the rescue deal to save the bust business includes closing 90 stores.

Buyer Sun European will purchase 170 high street shops and take on 1,600 staff, with the remaining 500 employees looking at redundancy.

The news is yet another blow to the battered high street which has seen companies such as Peacocks, Comet, Clinton Cards and Blockbuster suffer under the strain of the recession.