The Co-operative Travel Group has strenuously denied 90 planned redundancies are linked to the proposed merger with Thomas Cook after some staff reacted angrily to the news.

Comments on Travelweekly.co.uk by people claiming to be Co-op staff suggested the cuts were to prepare for the Thomas Cook tie-up, currently under review by the Competition Commission.

But a Co-op spokesman said: “These changes have absolutely nothing to do with the joint venture. They are being implemented to control costs and strengthen our performance.”

Almost half of the redundancies will fall at the Manchester-based holidays division’s sales teams, where 40 roles are at risk. No staff in the 400-strong agency network are under threat.

Regional retail managers and operational roles will also be reduced, while senior roles affected include commercial director Shaun Hinds and Jane Atkins, managing director of Freedom Travel Group and Future Travel.

Staff are in a 30-day consultation period, although Hinds has already sent an email to colleagues to say he will be leaving the business on May 13. Atkins, who will leave the business on the same day, said: “I’m very sad to be going.”

Sales teams for inhouse dynamic packaging operator Escape and inhouse cruise operator Spectrum Cruises will be consolidated, with most product roles under threat. The group would not comment on speculation that Escape would in future offer only a helpdesk service for agent bookings.

A Co-operative personal travel advisor said: “The cuts were a bolt out of the blue and as homeworkers we are upset by the news, although it does not affect us.”
Mike Greenacre, managing director of The Co-operative Travel, cited difficult trading conditions for the planned cuts.

He said: “This is an effort to reduce costs, to reflect reduced trading volume, and improve efficiencies through the increased use of technology to bolster our business mix, sales and margin as we seek to strengthen our trading position.”