Labour MEPs: Outside EU, workers will not be able to benefit from new plans for stronger rights following Thomas Cook bankruptcy

If the UK leaves the EU, workers would not be able to benefit from proposals for stronger workplace rights, such as those backed by MEPs today in a resolution calling for more action to defend those affected by the Thomas Cook bankruptcy, Labour MEPs warned.

The resolution calls on the Commission to consider legislation on the protection of workers in the event of insolvency with regard to repatriation, including the establishment of a special fund for this purpose, and stresses the need for decent social protection, that allows people to remain economically active and to live with dignity. It also calls on EU countries to ensure adequate unemployment subsidies as well as professional training and mentoring services for people who lost their job, with a particular attention to low-skilled workers and workers over the age of 50.

If further calls on the Commission to consider the introduction in the Package Travel Directive, which protects the rights of people travelling and holidaying in the EU, and linked travel arrangements, of a provision to define the rights of workers in cases of insolvency, and calls on the Commission to consider further measures and mechanisms to maintain a high level of worker and consumer protection in the event of business failure.

In addition, the resolution calls on the Commission to inform MEPs about any new relevant information about the bankruptcy of Thomas Cook, underlining the importance of knowing if the relevant licensing authorities have made the assessment of the financial situation of Thomas Cook, if any financial problems were identified, and if any preventative measures could have been taken.

And it highlights the possibilities provided by the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund to assist people who have lost their jobs – a fund the UK government should make use of, one which Britain will not be able to apply to if we leave the EU.

Jude Kirton-Darling MEP, Labour’s European Parliament spokesperson on employment and social affairs, told MEPs:

“When Thomas Cook, a British icon, declared bankruptcy in September, hundreds of thousands were left stranded, and its 21,000 employees in 16 countries, including 9,000 in the UK, unemployed.

“But let’s not be under any doubt, Thomas Cook went under because of bad management.

“While the Civil Aviation Authority should be commended for their efforts to get people home, thanks to EU passenger rights, our government – unlike others in Europe – did nothing to protect consumers, workers or taxpayers. They sat back and let the company fold.

“Not because they couldn’t do anything, as we heard from the people who’ve left the hall now [Brexit Party MEPs], but because they didn’t want to.

“It was great news that a real corporate success story in tourism, Sunderland’s own Hay’s Travel, stepped in, saving scores of local jobs as a result.

“But now, considering the scale of damage to our economy, particularly for manufacturing industries, Johnson’s Brexit beckons – we need a government that is willing to defend jobs and rights, not one that sits back and lets those jobs go, and then starts to blame others, as we’ve heard in the hall tonight.”

John Howarth MEP, Labour’s European Parliament spokesperson on the internal market and consumer protection committee, told the European Parliament:

“The collapse of Thomas Cook has had a serious effect on consumers, employees and businesses across Europe. Across South-East England an estimated 21,000 customers are waiting for refunds for their trips, protected by ATOL and EU legislation. Gatwick, the UK’s largest charter airport, is the biggest employer in and around Crawley. More than 500 jobs at the airport were dependent on Thomas Cook.

“I’m pleased to see Parliament calling for a thorough analysis of the collapse, better to anticipate and hopefully to prevent these situations happening in future. The resolution also highlights the possibilities provided by the Globalisation Adjustment Fund to assist people who have lost their jobs. The UK government should make use of this facility to offer training and assistance to those seeking new jobs.

“I am writing to the Secretary of State to urge them to do so at the earliest opportunity.”

Speaking in the debate, Julie Ward MEP added:

“Thomas Cook’s own bosses say of the government that business secretary Andrea Leadsom did not even speak to their executives leading up to its collapse.

“Fortunately, the 600,000 holiday-makers who were affected, were protected by the EU Package Travel Directive, which ensures that travellers’ rights are safe when booking package holidays, in terms of cancellation, liability, repatriation and refunds.

“If we leave the European Union these rights are under severe threat.”