Transport Salaried Staffs' Association

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TSSA logo.png
Full nameTransport Salaried Staffs' Association
AffiliationTUC, ICTU, STUC, CSEU, ETF, Labour Party[1]
Key peopleMick Carney, president
Manuel Cortes, general secretary
Office location2nd Floor, 17 Devonshire Square, London EC2M 4SQ
CountryUnited Kingdom, Ireland

The Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) is a trade union for workers in the transport and travel industries in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Its head office is adjacent to Euston station, London, and it has regional offices in Bristol, Derby, Dublin, Manchester, York and Glasgow.

TSSA has approximately 22,300 members in the UK and Ireland. While principally a union for people in the railway industry, the effect of the nationalisation and subsequent privatisations following the Second World War has meant that it has members working for railway companies, shipping companies, bus companies, travel agencies, airlines, call centres, and IT companies.


TSSA's headquarters in London

Individual members are allocated to branches. Historically branches were organised geographically and by grade, e.g. Liverpool; Dublin No. 1; Crewe No. 4 Technical; Crewe Management Staffs (the separate branches for different grades of staff were so that people with grievances against their managers wouldn't find those same managers as members of their branch). In Ireland, branches are still organised on this basis, but in the UK starting in 1998 there was a reorganisation such that members of most branches are employed by a single company e.g. Virgin Midlands - this was required in the fragmented world of the privatised railway because the private companies would not allow access for non-employees onto their premises.

Branches are in turn allocated to divisions - there are 14 geographical divisions, plus one for London Transport. Each division has a Divisional Council which meets at least twice a year, and members in each division elect a member of the Executive Committee (EC). EC members are elected for a three-year term, subject to a maximum of two consecutive terms of office (but can stand again after 3 years off the committee). The Executive Committee meets approximately ten times a year in London and continuously during the four-day annual conference held each May. The EC is responsible for the efficient running of the union, the employment of staff (of whom there are about 70), the oversight of the union's finances, and the implementation of decisions of Annual Conference.

The Annual Conference is the supreme decision-making body of the union. Each branch may send one delegate to the Conference, unless a branch has more than 200 members, in which case it has two delegates. Each branch can submit two motions and two amendments to motions to the Conference Agenda, and once every five years can submit two amendments to the union's Rule Book.

Organisation in Ireland is slightly different. The whole of Ireland forms one Division. As trade union law in the Republic of Ireland forbids trade unions being run by people not resident on the island of Ireland, the EC and Annual Conference cannot directly control the association's activity in the republic as they do in Britain. Instead, the Irish Divisional Council is constituted as the Irish Committee and chaired by the EC member for Ireland, and it operates in a similar manner to the EC. There is a biennial Irish Conference of delegates from all the Irish branches, to set policy solely relating to Ireland. When Irish branches want the Annual Conference to do something, motions to Annual Conference are normally phrased as 'requests' that the Irish Committee consider doing something rather than as the more normal 'instructions' that the Executive Committee do something.


The union was founded in Sheffield in 1897 as the National Association of General Railway Clerks, although it was a narrow decision to found the union. The railway companies were strongly opposed to trade unions and two earlier attempts to form a clerks' union had failed and, discouraged, the organisers decided by a majority of only one vote to try a third time - this time successfully. In 1899 it was renamed the Railway Clerks' Association (RCA), and in 1951 it adopted its current name.[2]

The early years were difficult. The third General Secretary, John Stopford-Challener, shot himself in Paris's Bois de Boulogne in 1906; it was only after his suicide that it was discovered that he had absconded with the union's money. After this came the era of A.G. Walkden, who as General Secretary for 30 years led the union to the peak of its influence; the head office in London, built in the early 1960s, was named after him. The railway companies refused to recognise the trade unions until after the strike of 1919, but after that time membership rose steadily, to a peak of some 91,500 in the early 1950s. The subsequent closure of uneconomic railway lines, the Beeching axe, and especially the computerisation of railway offices led to large scale reductions in the eligible membership. Membership was around 75,000 in 1970, 71,000 in 1980, and 39,000 in 1990. There was a rapid loss of around 25% of its membership in the mid to late 1990s because the grades of staff covered by the union were the ones hardest hit when British Rail was broken up from 1994 onwards; however the Executive Committee adopted a policy of seeking to vigorously recruit additional members particularly in those areas such as travel agencies which had not been the principal focus of the union in the past. This has led to more stable membership figures, including a small increase at the turn of the century.[3]

The union has been involved in at least one London Underground strike, between 2010-09-06 and 2010-09-07.[4]

In July 2015, TSSA endorsed Jeremy Corbyn's campaign in the Labour Party leadership election.[5]

In 2018, preparatory work for the HS2 railway meant that the TSSA had to vacate its head office since the 1960s, at Walkden House in Melton Street, adjacent to London’s Euston Station, and moved to a new head office in Devonshire Square, near Liverpool Street Station.

Office holders[edit]

General Secretaries[edit]

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary since 2011, speaking at the 2016 Labour Party Conference
1897: Charles Bassett-Vincent
1898: John Hereford
1898: F. Parrish (acting)
1899: John Stopford Challener
1906: William J. West (acting)
1906: Alexander Walkden
1936: William Stott
1940: Charles Gallie
1947: Fred Bostock
1948: Percy Heady (acting)
1949: George Thorneycroft
1953: Bill Webber
1963: John Bothwell
1968: Percy Coldrick
1973: David Mackenzie
1977: Tom Bradley (acting)
1977: Tom Jenkins
1982: Bert Lyons
1989: Richard Rosser
2004: Gerry Doherty
2011: Manuel Cortes[6]





Until 1906 the General Secretary also controlled the unions' funds. John Stopford-Challener's embezzlement proved that this was an unwise arrangement and the office of National Treasurer was then instituted.

1906: J. M. Roberts[9]
1920: W. E. Williams[9]
1927: Arnold Ernest Townend[9]
1934: Frederick Watkins MP[9]
1937: Percy Morris[9]
1943: James Haworth MP[9]
1953: Ray J. Gunter MP[9]
1956: Lord Lindgren[9]
1961: Tom G. Bradley MP[9]
1965: Walter Johnson MP[9]
1977: Jock Newall (acting)[9]
1977: Jim Mills[9]
1981: Stanley Cohen MP[9]
1984: Geoff Henman[9]
1987: Brenda Hanks[9]
1993: Peter Holloway (acting)[9]
1993: David Horton[9]
1997: David Porter[9]
2001: Annie Breen[9]
2004: Amarjit Singh (acting)[9]
2004: Andy Bain[9]
2005: Harriet Yeo[9]
2011: Mick Carney
2013: Andy Bain
2015: Jason Turvey


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-11. Retrieved 2012-03-31.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Malcolm Wallace (1996). "Birth of the Union". Single or Return. TSSA. Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  3. ^ Malcolm Wallace; Dave Hillam (2003) [1996]. "RCA/TSSA Branches & Membership". Single or Return. TSSA. Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  4. ^ Archived 2014-05-03 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "TSSA backs Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader and Angela Eagle for deputy". Transport Salaried Staffs' Association. 30 July 2015. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  6. ^ "Gibraltarian wins second term at head of UK transport union". Gibraltar Chronicle. 2 December 2016. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  7. ^ Malcolm Wallace; Dave Hillam (2003) [1996]. "General Secretaries of the Association". Single or Return. TSSA. Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  8. ^ Malcolm Wallace; Dave Hillam (2003) [1996]. "Presidents of the Association". Single or Return. TSSA. Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Malcolm Wallace; Dave Hillam (2003) [1996]. "Treasurers of the Association". Single or Return. TSSA. Retrieved 2007-12-15.

External links[edit]