A bitter row erupted over the rail dispute after the leader of the drivers’ union called the Transport Secretary a liar.
Grant Shapps tweeted that passengers using Avanti West Coast services should expect disruptions on Sunday because of unofficial strikes.
But Aslef fought back, saying there was no action on Sunday, accusing the minister of lying.
His penchant for lying is just one of the reasons he didn’t get enough supporters to go to the polls to become leader of the Conservative party. That and the fact that he’s not very good at his job.
Shapps tweeted: “UNOFFICIAL STRIKS: Passengers using Avanti West services should expect disruptions today. Archaic rules from 1919 mean that working on rest days is voluntary. Unions now stop drivers from volunteering – causing misery for the public and employees who will not be paid. WE MUST modernize rail transport.”
Mick Whelan, secretary general of Aslef, said: “Grant Shapps is a liar. He’s not just wrong, he knows he’s wrong.
“His propensity to lie is just one of the reasons he didn’t get enough supporters to go to the polls to become the leader of the Conservative party. That and the fact that he’s not very good at his job.
“The truth is that the company does not employ enough drivers to deliver the services it promises to passengers. The company and the minister must stop lying and start recruiting.”
Avanti’s Aslef members will strike on Aug. 13 as part of the long-running dispute over wages and conditions, but the union said no action was being taken before then.
Avanti West Coast said the unofficial action by drivers means it is facing “several last-minute cancellations” on its network as of Monday.
The company said in a statement that the cancellations are likely to continue until the current industrial dispute is resolved.
“Customers are invited to check their journey on our website before arriving at the station and should be prepared for services to be interrupted at short notice and very busy.
“We regret the enormous frustration and inconvenience this will cause our customers and we condemn the actions of the drivers.
“We urge them to engage in meaningful conversations about modernizing working practices and developing a railroad fit for the 21st century.”
A union spokesperson said the company does not employ enough drivers to deliver its services.
Aslef members at seven railway companies went on strike on Saturday, causing a massive disruption to services.
More strikes are planned in August by Aslef, the Railway, Maritime and Transport union and the Association of Salaried Transport Employees, exacerbating disputes over wages, jobs and conditions.
An Avanti spokesperson added: “We have a long-standing agreement with drivers for them to work shifts as overtime.
“Drivers like it because they make extra money. There are typically around 250 trains a week covered under this deal, with a pool of extremely reliable drivers who sign up regularly and without any problems.
“Literally overnight, this week’s number dropped to less than 10 trains covered for overtime. The drivers, en masse, withdrew their volunteers.”