Thomas Cook and MyTravel staff face months of uncertainty as the companies cannot reveal details of their merger plans until June at the earliest.
Future joint chief executive of the merged group Manny Fontenla-Novoa has begun a review of the assets, strategy and structure of the group, but will not announce the results until the deal’s formal completion, which depends on approval from regulators.
That is expected in June, but could be delayed by four to six months if the European Commission decides to investigate further or refer the matter to UK authorities.
Job losses and redeployment are inevitable as the combined businesses seek annual savings of £75 million.
However, formal consultation on redundancies will not begin until the merger proceeds – and that could be as late as the end of the year.
Fontenla-Novoa was at pains to stress that staff should not expect the worst.
“I understand there will be uncertainty and I wish we could sort things out quicker,” he said. “What I can promise is that we will keep both groups of staff informed.”
He conceded the 19,000 staff in the UK will bear the brunt of job losses, saying: “The majority will be in the UK, whatever the number is.”
But he dismissed suggestions the UK headcount would be cut to 40% of the group’s total. “Absolutely not,” he said. “The German business has big capacity, but a very small retail business. The bigger numbers in the UK are a product of the large retail business we have.”
He said the high level of staff turnover, especially in shops, would mean a chance of redeployment for many.
“Most retail organisations experience staff turnover rates of 30%-plus. With a workforce of 19,000 that means thousands of jobs created a year. We have fantastic people in both businesses and want to retain them.”
…the brands: “I have competed with Airtours and know how strong its brands are. There is not much overlap. You cannot stretch the Thomas Cook brand across everything. We are not brand arrogant. Those at MyTravel know the MyTravel brands better than I do. Will we have an overarching brand? Having Thomas Cook as an endorsement brand [on Airtours brochures] is one of the options.”
…the UK HQ: “The corporate headquarters will be in London, but it is a very small office. We won’t start somewhere new. We will take advantage of what we have.” Existing offices are in Peterborough and Rochdale.
…the call centres: “I’m not sure we will need six. But we will have a lot of capacity to move. We will have a significant call centre business.”
…the online strategy: “Airtours had the third most-visited [travel] site in the UK in January. That is a very powerful position and you would not give it up easily.”
…the aircraft: “We will have 45 aircraft in the UK, but the combined capacity will be six million. That is big. It is not a foregone conclusion that we will reduce the number of aircraft.”
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