MEPs call on EU countries to make full use of existing EU instruments to mitigate the impact of the Thomas Cook bankruptcy.

In a resolution adopted on Thursday, MEPs express concern over the 600 000 people left stranded, thousands of job losses, difficulties for SMEs and damage to the tourism sector.

Governments should use the European Social Fund and Globalisation Adjustment Fund to help workers made redundant and companies damaged by the travel group’s collapse, and the Commission should identify EU instruments that could compensate for the harm caused to the sector, MEPs say.

The Commission and member states should ensure that workers affected by insolvency are guaranteed their earned wages and retirement benefits, they add.

Improving response to future crises

MEPs point out that 32 airlines have gone bankrupt since 2017 and want the Commission to assess if new measures are needed to prevent such situations.

The reasons that led to Thomas Cook going bankrupt should be studied, MEPs say, pointing out that its financial situation was already known to the British authorities, and rules could be changed to better monitor the financial situation of airlines.

As a last resort, state aid could be considered to ease the negative economic impact, they add.

Better consumer and employee protection

To boost consumer protection in cases of business failure, airline guarantee funds or insurance contracts should be included in the EU’s passenger rights rules, which are currently under revision and awaiting member states to conclude their position.

MEPs also want the Commission to table a proposal on the rights of workers to receive information and be involved in consultation, and on anticipating and managing restructuring in line with Parliament’s resolution adopted in January 2013.

An EU tourism strategy

Finally, MEPs stress that the tourism sector, which suffered serious damage due to Thomas Cook’s collapse, generates more than 10 percent of total EU GDP and acts as a stimulus to other sectors.

It should therefore be included in the Commission’s priorities and have a budget line in the next EU budget.

According to the S&D Group “the alarming Thomas Cook bankruptcy shows the need for a European legislation that guarantees workers’ and consumers’ rights.

“Thomas Cook’s unfortunate bankruptcy clearly shows the importance of tourism on the economy and also demonstrates the great negative impact on other sectors, mainly the transport sector. For the Socialists and Democrats, the protection of workers’ rights is and remains a crucial factor. We are therefore calling on the Commission to urgently come forward with a comprehensive legislation that guarantees workers’ salaries and retirement benefits in case of insolvencies. We regret that the liberals and conservatives voted against our proposals to strengthen workers’ rights. Once again, it is clear who stands up in defence of people and workers and who instead tries to turn back the clock and downgrade consolidate rights. Fortunately, the attempt by the liberals and conservatives to water down the level of ambition regarding consumer rights failed,” said S&D transport committee coordinator, Johan Danielsson.

“The bankruptcy of Thomas Cook is, unfortunately, not an isolated incident. We need a coherent and comprehensive approach, which protects all consumers equally. Why does a passenger who booked a whole travel package receive compensation and is repatriated, while a traveler who only booked a flight is left behind?” stated The S&D Group spokeswoman on the internal market, Christel Schaldemose.

“Our priority now is ensuring that none of the affected travelers are left without compensation and workers receive their earned wages and pension benefits. Furthermore, the financial incapacity of a company the size of Thomas Cook affects self-employed individuals and SMEs, as well as providers of services and goods. They need to be supported as well. It is crucial that the consequences of this bankruptcy are contained.”