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Travel agents stage sit-in over closure

STAFF at a Thomas Cook office in Dublin last night vowed to continue a sit-in after being told the travel agency would close.

Their occupation began after senior managers from the UK arrived to inform them the travel agency would close both its Dublin shops immediately, over a month ahead of schedule.

About 25 staff, including a pregnant woman, occupied an office in the building on Grafton Street and said they would not leave until the management respected their right to consultation and industrial action over the terms of their redundancy.

The staff, who are all in the Transport and Salaried Staff Association (TSSA), had just completed a ballot for industrial action, and had staged a number of protests in recent weeks at the decision to axe the shops.

TSSA officer Patrick McCusker accused the company of using "bullyboy tactics" by springing the closure on staff.

"They are riding roughshod over the right to take industrial action by marching staff into a room and telling them they are going to close immediately," he said. Staff member Antoinette Shevlin said they would continue their sit-in until a satisfactory agreement had been reached.

A Thomas Cook spokesperson said that following more than two months of consultation, "it is with regret that we have now reached the decision to continue with plans to close the two Thomas Cook stores".

"During this time we have considered several alternatives to make the two stores profitable, but unfortunately these have not proved to be viable.

"Our priority is to contact customers with bookings made through the two stores to let them know how to contact us and to make arrangements for the collection of travel documentation," he said.

About 54 staff are affected by the closure of the two stores on Grafton Street and North Earl Street, although the company has said it will retain 10 to assist with the winding down of the business, as about 3,500 customer bookings have to be dealt with, Ms Shevlin said.

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The company has said it will maintain an Irish business at a back office and call centre in Park West, Dublin.

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