Thomas Cook cabin crew could initiate a strike in May. More than 1,000 air stewardesses and stewards started voting on 5 May over a possible industrial action. While the voting ballot closes on 25 May, trade union Unite said it could affect the upcoming half-term school holidays.
The voting comes after Thomas Cook changed the resting hours for the staff. While according to earlier rules they were allowed to take a 20-minute break every 6 hours, new rules force them to take the same break once in 12 hours.
The cabin crew, who usually work for 10-15 hours a day and up to 60 hours a week, argued that the new rule would take a toll on their health as it would make them tired. They added that this would also make it difficult for them to maintain passenger safety in an emergency.
Oliver Richardson, national officer at Unite, Britain's largest union said: "Our members are deeply concerned about the impact these changes to rest breaks are having on inflight safety. 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".
"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", Richardson added.
A Thomas Cook spokesman, however, argued: "We would like to reassure our customers that nothing matters more to us than safety. It's regrettable the union has chosen this path because the crew rest procedure, which includes monitoring all crew rest on all flights, was introduced with the agreement of the union.
"It also meets the regulations of industry experts the Civil Aviation Authority and does not compromise on safety. We have offered to meet union representatives and the message we hear directly from our crew is that they're looking forward to a great summer of flying customers on holiday."