The Retail Book Association

About Us

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Membership Information

Offers, discounts and details of how we help our members.

Frequently Asked Questions

Read our FAQ's.

Retail & Service Sector Trade Union

Established in 1919

We are a trade union which specialises in looking after Members’ interests in the retail / service sector.
Run by, and for, the sole benefit of our members. We protect and serve our members on both an individual and collective basis. There are thousands of members in Retail shops throughout the United Kingdom.

The RBA is a democratic organisation, and every member has a voice on issues concerning union policy, pay and conditions and the election of officials.

The main day to day activity of the union is in representing individual members in hundreds of hearings a year, covering warnings, dismissals, absence management meetings, and grievances.

What We Do

Over 100 years helping people like you

The RBA was founded in 1919 by WHSmith Store Managers returning to civilian life after the Great War.

Many things in the world of work have changed, but there is still a need for employees to have a voice.

For workers in the Retail Book Stationery and Allied Trades that voice is the RBA.

Consultation on all work-related issues

Individual Representation

Countrywide network of trained Representatives

Negotiations and consultation with your employers at national and local level

Professional advice and assistance on all queries relating to employment

“The RBA works for you” – the members, together, own the Union, its assets, and investments, built up over 100 years of careful and prudent stewardship by Trustees, elected from the membership.

The RBA is certified as an independent trade union. It has no other purpose than to protect and serve its members, and has no interest in anything other than its members. As such, it needs to have enough paying members to maintain what is a very professional and dedicated service to very professional and dedicated people! Like any other organisation we always welcome new members.

Most Common Ways We Work For Our Members

  • Individual Representation
  • Collective Representation
  • General Advice & Assistance
Individual Representation

RBA representatives can and do accompany members in disciplinary and grievance hearings all over the country. We make sure that no member stands alone at such times, and we really do make a difference.

Representatives are not just witnesses; they take an active part in meetings and hearings, and the only thing they cannot do is answer questions put directly to the employee by the employer.

Collective Representation

Where membership numbers in a business are sufficient, we represent collectively, to be consulted by, or negotiate with employers on a range of general terms and conditions at work such as pay, hours and holidays.

Health & Safety at Work is also something we cover - see below for more information.

General Advice & Assistance

We can advise and assist members on any work-related issue or concern - terms and conditions of work, contracts, discrimination, company policies covering holidays, absence, grievance & disciplinary procedures, and flexible working.

Legal advice and assistance is also provided for Employment Tribunal casework, and for Personal Injury claims.

Help When You Need It Most

Individual Representations

We accompany members in disciplinary and grievance hearings all over the country. We make sure that no member stands alone at such times, and we really do make a difference.

Health & Safety Focus

Collective Representation

Ensuring policies and procedures are maintained to look after the safety and health of our members and of any other persons such as non-members and customers on premises where we have members.

Member Offers & Discounts

In addition to the peace of mind your membership brings you for your employment, there are more exclusive benefits available to you and your family.


Average Number of contacts made by members each month


Individual Representations in an Average Month


Delegates & Representatives

Meet The Team

Members run the RBA, electing District Delegates, an Executive Council, the President and the Vice-President, all of whom manage the Union for the Members.
RBA Chairman
David Pickles


David was elected in 1997 having previously served as Vice President, Branch Rep, Delegate and Executive Councillor whilst working for WHS. David worked in both staff and management positions in various Stores in the North West and has a personal understanding of both roles.

The President is elected by the Membership and is employed by the RBA.

Based at Central Office, the president visits Stores to meet members as well as representing them throughout the Country.

He chairs The Executive Council and other Committees and also meets with Members’ employers throughout the year on a wide range of work-related matters including Pay and Conditions, and individual representations.

Douglas May


The Vice-President is elected by serving District Delegates, for a period of 3 years, and is a voluntary position. It is the duty of the Vice-President to advise the President, chair the Communications and Rules/Policies Committees and deputise for the President if required to do so. As Vice-President, Douglas is also available to advise and assist individual members.

I joined WH Smith in 1997 working part-time, going on to start the WH Smith Travel Graduate Scheme and joined the RBA as many colleagues recommended them as they were always there to help. In 2003, I moved to the High Street side of the business in various roles; Assistant Manager, Store Manager and now Cluster Manager. I progressed to become a Delegate, attending conferences and meetings with WHSmith. I have been involved with the RBA communications committee and became a trustee. When the opportunity arose, I stood for the role of Vice President, which gives more opportunities to support the President and be directly involved in meetings such as wages and health & safety.

I hope, like me, you take the opportunity to join the union and start your journey as an RBA member.

RBA Delegate John
John Threadgold


The Non-Executive Officer is a voluntary role by invitation of the President and ratification of the Executive Council. The role is to advise and assist the President, and at the direction of the President, to assist and advise Committees and individual members within grievance and disciplinary procedures.

I joined the RBA in 2007 and have been the beneficiary of Union support in contract negotiations, pay disputes and through two redundancy situations. I was elected as a Manager Delegate in 2013, and have since served as an executive councillor and currently as a non-executive officer. My desire is to give something back to the organisation that has always been there for me and to support colleagues who, like myself, may not know where to turn when in difficulty.

The RBA works for you:

...and works harder than you would imagine!

Easy for us to say, but true, nevertheless.

Skilled and experienced Central Office staff & Officers are available 12 hours a day, seven days a week, to advise and represent members wherever they work.

The RBA’s volunteer force of elected Branch Representatives and Delegates also work tirelessly on behalf of members, in individual grievance and disciplinary casework, and on committees dealing with collective issues.
They are just like you, working full time or part time in retail; they know what life in retail is like, and without their work the union couldn’t function. They don’t do it for the money (it’s unpaid), they do it because they care, and they are truly the unsung heroes!

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