Thomas Cook workers ignore court order

Protesting workers staging a sit-in at a Thomas Cook branch risked jail tonight by rejecting a final High Court order to leave.

Protesting workers staging a sit-in at a Thomas Cook branch risked jail tonight by rejecting a final High Court order to leave.

The protesters, who are locked in a bitter row with the travel giant over redundancy terms, had to be out of the Dublin office by 7pm tonight or face being held in contempt of court.

More than 40 staff, including two pregnant women, occupied the shop in Grafton Street, Dublin, after management announced the immediate closure of the company’s two offices in the city on Friday afternoon.

Gerry Doherty, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), said: “We have always observed the law of the land in every country where we have membership.

“We conveyed to our members in Grafton Street the ruling of the High Court and they took a decision to reject it.

“Because the legal action is ongoing, I cannot make any further public statement.”

Caroline Cullen, a worker with the travel giant for eight years, pleaded with the Government to intervene.

The 30-year-old from Lucan said she was worried about the repercussions of the decision and appealed for the public to support them tomorrow.

“We’ve been told we’ll be arrested if we’re not out by 11am tomorrow.”

Earlier around 150 people staged a rally in the heart of the capital in support of the workers as a hearing on the sit-in got under way at the Four Courts.

Dublin’s lord mayor Emer Costello, trade unionists and political parties are supporting the workers.

At the protest outside the Thomas Cook branch, Ms Costello, who knows some of the workers, said she found the situation heartbreaking for staff and their families.

“The people that are there in Thomas Cook have given a lifetime service to Thomas Cook and have been very loyal workers,” the lord mayor said.

“I find it very disheartening that people have to go to those lengths to try and protect their jobs. It’s a very bad situation.

“I’m very disappointed that Thomas Cook feels it has to shut down its Irish operation.”

Ms Costello said she believed the lock-in had captured the mood of the city.

“We really do need to work to protect whatever jobs we have,” she said.

“I think it’s an indication of the strength of feeling throughout the city that so many people would turn up on a Bank Holiday Monday to support the workers.

“I think the Thomas Cook workers have captured the mood of people.”

Chanting supporters packed the footpath outside the store, which had a large sheet draped across it with the words “fair redundancy for job losses” written across it.

Placards were held aloft with slogans such as “Give us what we deserve and what we’ve earned” and “We sold tickets for the Titanic and now we’re sinking”.

Trade union chiefs from Mandate and Unite were present.

Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown county councillor Richard Boyd Barrett, with the People Before Profit group, said the Government should step in.

“Our Government should not allow employers to act in this fashion. They should intervene,” Mr Barrett said.

Antoinette Shevlin, a worker with Thomas Cook for almost 10 years, said the staff were determined to fight for their rights.

“We’ve had people making collections and dropping money in,” the 36-year-old from Lucan said.

“We’ve had food dropped in .. little old ladies are coming along with scones.”

Audrey Forrister from Coolock, who has worked for the travel giant for 11 years, said they wanted a fair redundancy package.

“With the amount of service and loyalty that we put in ... it just doesn’t seem fair to us,” the 40-year-old said.

On Saturday the protest also spread to a Direct Holidays outlet – a Thomas Cook subsidiary – on Dublin’s Talbot Street.

Management moved to shut the firm’s two Dublin stores a month ahead of schedule, claiming they wanted to minimise any disruption to customers.

The travel company announced in May it was abandoning its high street operation in Ireland.

Some 77 jobs are being axed with the closure of the two Thomas Cook branches as well as a Direct Holidays outlet, although the latter is not due to shut until the end of the summer.

Thomas Cook has insisted it would maintain its Irish business at its back office and call centre operation in Parkwest, Dublin, with 70 positions being retained.

The cuts will not affect operations in Northern Ireland.

The company said it brought forward the closure to minimise disruption to customers.

Thomas Cook said it was offering five weeks pay per year of service as a redundancy package.

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