Worthing’s former Thomas Cook employees go from devastation to ‘pure relief’ after takeover

Former employees of Thomas Cook have spoken of the ‘pure relief’ at having their jobs saved.

On September 23, staff at Worthing’s Chapel Road branch and thousands of others across the country woke to the news the holiday giant had collapsed.

Laura Pinto, Sally Downes, Lorraine Rayner and Pat Cooper have a combined total of more than 70 years' experience at Thomas Cook SUS-191025-125114001

Laura Pinto, Sally Downes, Lorraine Rayner and Pat Cooper have a combined total of more than 70 years' experience at Thomas Cook SUS-191025-125114001

All of the 11 Worthing staff were instantly made redundant, with many only finding out from a report on the morning news.

Laura Pinto had worked for Thomas Cook for 16 years – she said all of the staff were devastated.

“There was a sombreness,” said Laura, who works alongside her mum, Lorraine.

“No-one was angry, we were just in shock. It was like going through the grieving process – we weren’t just losing our jobs, we were losing each other.”

Many of the staff had worked together well over a decade, Laura said, going through marriages, divorces and new babies together.

Faced with a sudden loss of income, the branch employees and airline staff who live in Worthing were buoyed by the support from the community.

Local businesses rallied round, offering free meals, haircuts, beauty treatments and facilities to get back on their feet.

Then, last Saturday, the news broke that the holiday firm Hays Travel had salvaged the defunct business, pledging to reopen all 555 stores and save thousands of jobs.

Every member of Worthing staff was offered their job back, without the need to reapply.

Eight took up on the offer, including Laura Pinto, Lorraine Rayner, Pat Cooper, Leonie Blundell and Sally Downes – boasting more than 100 years at Thomas Cook between them.

“It was pure relief,” said Laura. “We can’t wait to get going and repay the company for their gesture and get back to our loyal customers.”

Many regular customers became like friends, she said, and even people who had never used the store before had popped in to wish them well.