Former staff who took over a Thomas Cook Dublin travel agent have been arrested by police in a raid. Among the 28 squatting the premises in the Irish capital was an eight-and-a-half-month pregnant woman who is reported to have gone into labour as she was removed.
The travel agents staged a sit-in after being told by Thomas Cook management on Friday that the branch would be shut immediately as a result of actions taken by their union, the Transport Salaried Staff Association, which included a public protest against the terms of a redundancy deal.
Around 15 officers broke down the door of the branch in Grafton Street and arrested all those inside. The occupiers cheered as they were removed one-by-one from the premises. They were taken to the Bridewell Garda station for questioning.
Last week, Mr Justice Peart of the Dublin High Court, ordered their arrest after they ignored a court order for them to vacate the premises by the weekend.
The shop and another, Direct Holidays, a nearby city-centre subsidiary, were scheduled to close on 6 September, but the date for the Grafton Street branch was brought forward.
The former staff members are holding out for a redundancy deal which would give them eight weeks per year of service, rather than the five weeks currently offered by the company.
They claim that Thomas Cook is a hugely profitable company which paid its chief executive £7 million last year and can afford an enhanced redundancy deal.
Unite has called the police intervention “a dark stain on the history of industrial relations in Ireland.”
Jimmy Kelly, Unite’s regional secretary, told The Times: “These are ordinary working people standing up for their rights. They have a right to be treated with respect and for their employer to hold to a standard of engagement that in this case has merely been cast aside.”
Thomas Cook announced in May that it was shutting its High Street operation in Ireland. Some 77 jobs are to go, with the closure of the two Thomas Cook branches as well as a Direct Holidays outlet, although the latter is not due to shut until the end of the summer.
Thomas Cook said it will maintain its Irish business at its back office and call centre operation in Parkwest, Dublin, with 70 positions being retained.