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Fatigue factor

Thomas Cook cabin crew vote on breaks
Alex Flynn, Monday, May 9th, 2016

Over a thousand Thomas Cook airlines cabin crew began voting in a ballot for industrial action on Friday (May 6) in a dispute over health and safety concerns and ‘dangerous’ changes to rest breaks which sees cabin crews allowed just a 20 minute break during an 11 hour 59 minute duty period.


The strike vote involving members of Unite follows mounting concerns that cabin crew are being ‘pushed to the limit’ in a bid to maximise profits which is, in turn, putting passenger safety at risk.


Crew, whose primary duty on board an aircraft is passenger safety, have voiced increasing alarm about the impact of fatigue on inflight safety following Thomas Cook’s insistence that they work for up to 12 hours with only a 20 minute break.


Before management’s imposition of the changes, cabin crew were entitled to a 20 minute break every six hours.


A member of cabin crew will typically work 10 to 15 hour shifts and up to 60 hours a week. Shifts include pre-flight preparations, safety and security checks, boarding, inflight service of headsets, drinks, food, duty free sales and other promotions, such as scratch cards.


On short-haul flights this process is repeated for in-bound flights after a turnaround of usually less than one hour which includes restocking and preparing the aircraft while under extreme time pressures.


Thomas Cook has also now introduced an ‘Airshoppen’ service for passengers. This additional service allows passengers to pre-order duty free online and have it delivered to them in their seats.


It involves cabin crew sorting and bagging orders prior to take off and collecting payment from customers inflight. On flights the service is taking up to two hours to deliver.


The ballot of cabin crew, working on flights to major tourist destinations from 10 airports across the UK, closes on Wednesday, May 25 and could lead to industrial action taking place during the forthcoming half term school holidays.


Deeply concerned


“Our members are deeply concerned about the impact these changes to rest breaks are having on inflight safety,” said Unite national officer Oliver Richardson.


“Fatigue is a major contributory factor to accidents and slower response times when there is an incident.


“The primary purpose of cabin crew is the safety of passengers, but instead Thomas Cook seems intent on working them to the bone to extract as much money as possible out of passengers at the expense of safety,” he added.


“Our members at Thomas Cook pride themselves on the service they give to passengers and want to ensure they deliver a safe and efficient world class service with a smile.


“However that is becoming impossible after management’s dangerous dictat that they are only allowed one 20 minute rest break during a shift of up to 11 hours 59 minutes,” Richardson went on to say.


“The airline’s repeated refusal to agree to talks and reach a sensible negotiated solution is only inflaming matters. Thomas Cook needs to drop its high-handed approach, listen to cabin crew and start to negotiate meaningfully with Unite.


“Otherwise, its work until you drop, no matter what the cost, ethos will harm passenger safety and customer service.”



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