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High Court orders end to Thomas Cook staff sit-in

ANGRY staff staging a sit-in at Thomas Cook travel agency on Dublin's Grafton Street were yesterday served with a High Court order asking that they leave the premises. The company, which says it was forced to bring forward the closures of its Irish branches as a result of earlier staff action, said it can no longer tolerate the sit ins.

Earlier in the day, staff at Thomas Cook on Dublin's Grafton Street and the Direct Holidays store on Talbot Street, Dublin, protested in an attempt to obtain an improved redundancy package from the company.

More than 40 workers, including two pregnant women, have vowed to remain in the travel group's stores "for as long as it takes".

The staff at Grafton Street locked themselves in on Friday afternoon following management's announcement that their office and the store on North Earl Street was to shut down with immediate effect.

The closure was brought forward from the end of August following recent heated negotiations with the Transport Salaried Staff's Association (TSSA). The union balloted staff on industrial action in the past week and served strike notice on Thomas Cook yesterday following a redundancy offer of a five-week pay package.

Meanwhile, staff at the Talbot Street store began a sit-in yesterday afternoon and were angry that senior management had sent security guards in to retrieve the store keys.

Assistant manager Sinead Hammett, who has worked at the store since it opened 10 years ago, expressed her anger.

"I've been here almost 10 years, and so I'm very emotional. I was shocked to hear the store would be closing down -- only a few weeks ago they gave us additional training and introduced 'proud values' for staff.

"We were also reassured about our jobs and told that the recession had affected us but that we would scrape through." Speaking about the workers demands she said: "We want a redundancy package of eight weeks."

Yesterday customers brought food to the store in a show of support. "They have booked with us for years because we built up a relationship with them... And now our customers have told us they're right behind us," Ms Hammett said.

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