BELEAGUERED holiday firm Thomas Cook has announced plans to shut 10 travel agencies across the region.
Staff went through an anxious 24-hour wait before learning if their jobs had been affected, after the company announced plans to shed 15% of its UK and Ireland workforce.
Around 56 jobs are set to go in the North East and Cumbria if the proposals go ahead as part of a restructuring plan which also aims to slash administration costs.
The company, which has already cut more than 1,100 jobs in the last year, aims to shed up to 1,600 in its UK high street shops, with the remainder coming from administrative positions.
In the North East, the firm’s Thomas Cook and Co-operative Travel Service shops are affected by the announcement.
The branches set to close their doors are in Spennymoor, Ashington, Hexham, Low Fell, Gateshead town centre, Carlisle, Northallerton, Harrogate and Middlesbrough Parkway.
Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel firm, has struggled ever since the 2011 Arab spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, which affected its extensive operations in Egypt and Tunisia. In the year to the end of September 2012, the firm reported pre-tax losses of £485.3m and is reported to have debts of more than £1.5bn.
A 90-day consultation process with employees is now under way.
Joanna Wild, managing director of the Thomas Cook Co-operative retail network, said: “As a large retailer we regularly review our network to make sure we have the right stores in the right places for our customers, and regrettably there are occasions where we need to close branches.
“Following the announcement of stores that are proposed to close, we are now working with those colleagues potentially affected.
“We’d like to thank both our colleagues and customers for the commitment and understanding during this process. Our high street stores are a popular way for customers to book with us and are an essential part of our approach alongside our websites and sales centres.”
Thomas Cook insists it will maintain a “strong presence on the high street”, adding the stores earmarked for closure did not meet targets or were in areas where the group has more than one outlet.