TSSA demands Shapps corrects “false and insulting” rail dispute comments

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps headshot photo

Rail union TSSA has demanded that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps corrects the record over false and misleading media comments about the rail dispute.

In a letter to the Transport Secretary sent today (Tuesday), TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes points out that media comments being issued by the Department for transport (DfT) press office which claim TSSA is “first seeking to cause misery… rather than commit to serious dialogue” are demonstrably untrue.

The union leader lays out a timeline showing how TSSA sought meetings and negotiations for five months before moving issues of pay and job security into dispute – a move which finally secured those meetings. The union further demonstrates how it is in fact Grant Shapps and his department which is responsible for the very crime they accuse TSSA of – that of failing to “commit to serious dialogue”.

Commenting, Manuel Cortes said: “Under Grant Shapps, the Department for Transport is issuing lies and nonsense to the media. They are clearly more interested in spin than actually trying to resolve the rail dispute.

“Shapps would have the public believe that our union wants strikes over a settlement – nothing could be further from the truth. It is in fact his own government’s instructions which have shackled negotiations, preventing normal talks over pay and jobs from taking place.

“Grant Shapps and the DfT are the puppeteers pulling the strings on this dispute. They have the ability to resolve it and avoid the need for strike action. Perhaps now his stumbling leadership bid is over, Shapps can get back to the day job, correct the record and work on actually resolving this dispute.”

The full letter is copied below.

Dear Grant,  

I’m writing to express strong disappointment that your department is issuing false and misleading statements about TSSA, and I request that you correct the record.  

Media comments released by the Department for Transport press office claim – erroneously and damagingly – that “rather than commit to serious dialogue with the industry, the TSSA are first seeking to cause further misery to passengers”.    

This is categorically untrue, and I ask you to get your department to correct the record.  

Our union has been seeking and attending talks with employers for months. Indeed, by way of example, we wrote to Network Rail with our usual annual request for pay meetings in December 2021. In that particular instance, despite numerous requests and follow up by TSSA officials seeking meetings, it was only when we moved the issue of pay into dispute status in April 2022 that we finally received meeting dates. That’s a full five months after our first formal request for a meeting – hardly “first seeking to cause misery” as your department publicly claims. 

In the case of train operators, it’s been a similar story – ie TSSA reaching out, seeking meetings and where meetings have been arranged we are always in attendance.

In fact, when it comes to train operators, it was the actions of your department and your government that prevented serious dialogue from taking place. You seem to have deliberately politicised the issues of pay and job security across our railways with the intention of engineering a dispute that did not need to take place.

As you know, train operating companies (TOCs) require a mandate from the DfT to make pay offers and assurances around no compulsory redundancies – two of the core issues in the current dispute. It became clear that no progress could be made in meetings with TOCs around these issues as your department was refusing to allow employers to negotiate. This was exasperating to both the unions and many of the employers.

This situation is made crystal clear when compared to train operators not bound by the DfT’s restrictive mandate. In Merseyrail, our union and the company amicably agreed a pay deal of 7.1% this year, and pay deals have been done in Transport for Wales, Hull Trains, Scotrail and elsewhere. All without the decent into dispute.

So, rather than publish factually incorrect and insulting comments to the media, I ask you and your media team to get across the facts of this dispute. I hope you will no longer be distracted by your failed ambitions to be Prime Minister, and instead be able to concentrate on your day job by putting your efforts into resolving this rail dispute.

I copy below the comment issued by the Department for Transport press office for clarity.

Yours sincerely,


Manuel Cortes

TSSA General Secretary

DfT media comment:

Department for Transport spokesperson said:  

“It is very disappointing that, rather than commit to serious dialogue with the industry, the TSSA are first seeking to cause further misery to passengers by joining others in disrupting the rail network.”  

A red background with white text in the middle third. Text reads Our Rail Our Future. On either side are columns of small multi-cultural cartoon people in various train company and Network Rail uniforms.

Our Rail Our Future

Our dispute with Network Rail and all DfT train operating companies over pay, job security and terms and conditions is settled. Find out more about our campaign.

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