The Retail Book Association

Individual Representation

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Handling problems at work

Established in 1919

Retail & Service Sector Trade Union

For individual members – 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. Membership is career insurance. People insure their car, their lives, their house and contents, even their pets, but too often neglect to insure the thing that pays for it all – their income!

Is it worth the money?

It is always worth remembering that your employer spends a fortune on specialists and experts in Human Resources, who are there to advise and assist your employer. The RBA is merely a counterbalance that provides expert help for you. The only difference is that we don’t cost you a fortune, just a modest monthly subscription!

Problems at work
Union Representation

The RBA works for you

It really does make a difference – good, professional representation works! It gets results. We don’t profess to be able to win everything and put the whole world to rights, but we will always make a difference!

Join us if you are not a member, and when you are a member, rely upon us to support you

when you need us.

When can we make a difference?

If you are unfortunate to be faced with a problem at work, we will be there for you, making things better.


Whether for conduct or for performance. The RBA makes sure that you are not attending such distressing interviews on your own – even if you accept and understand the disciplinary sanction being imposed, having representation makes sure that there is a fair hearing; that mitigating circumstances are taken into consideration; and that nothing occurs unfairly. We also make sure that any objectives set within a warning are actually achievable, so that members are not “set to fail” to the point where further disciplinary action is inevitable.


Anything an employer does that causes dissatisfaction, or aggrieves an employee, can be the subject of a grievance appeal, in the same way that anything an employee does that the employer is dissatisfied with can trigger a disciplinary interview. Making a complaint on one’s own can be frustrating and difficult. Taking a union rep with you, who isn’t there just to witness proceedings, who is there as an advocate, to support and put your case with you, and to ensure that you get a full and fair hearing, makes a lot of difference.


For conduct or performance, and for reason of ill health or redundancy – having representation makes a difference, ensuring balance, fairness, and dignity at work.


Counselling members also takes up a high proportion of Officers’ time, usually during evenings; talking to, and listening to, members when they really need someone to talk to about the problems and concerns, they have at work.

Retired RBA Paul

Thoughts from Paul Lee - National Officer (Retired)

Will RBA Representation Make A Difference?

Grievance and disciplinary cases can be stressful; dealing with it on one’s own, more so. Of course, you can “go it alone” and hope for the best; you can ask a colleague to accompany you; if you are under 18 you could even ask a parent to go with you…

Or, you could be represented by a skilled and experienced professional Officer or Official of the RBA. But, of course, you have to be a member for that to happen.

That’s all there is – a colleague from the workplace, a parent (if you are a minor), or a Union Rep. No solicitors, no ACAS conciliator, not your friend from next door who says he knows what he’s talking about!

Does it make a difference?

Absolutely! We cannot guarantee to “win” in every grievance or disciplinary case that we deal with, but we can, and do, ensure that every opportunity is taken to achieve a fair hearing and an equitable end result. After all, that is what we are paid to do!

Statutory procedures are paramount nowadays, and your employer’s policy is modelled upon those procedures. Like any other legal procedure, being based upon “natural justice”, one assumes that one will receive a “fair trial”.

A famous employment lawyer, Lord Denning, said, around sixty years ago, that the UK justice system “is like the Ritz Hotel, open to all”.

This was the subject of a question in my first law exam, where we were asked to comment. My view then (in the 1980’s, not the 1950s!) is the same as it is today – you get good service if you’ve got loads of money!

I’ve been to the Ritz Hotel since then, and still cannot afford to enjoy the experience…

So, does money provide a better service? Of course it does! The best solicitors charge the most; as do the best plumbers, and electricians.

Save the money and do it yourself? Having tried plumbing, once, not me!

Ritz tea

I once tried to sort out a little problem with an overflow pipe that ended up with me in the Accident & Emergency ward, a plumber to fix the toilet (£450), and an electrician to fix the fact that the flood I caused shorted out the whole house (£620).

Lesson learned. Get the experts in!

The RBA has only one purpose:
To look after the employment interests of it's members.

So, got a problem?

Worried about a work-related issue?

Facing a disciplinary interview?

Contact the people who work for you. The RBA

(but don’t bother if you are not a member – try the alternatives above)

Still want to go it alone?

Good Luck!

You may think that this article doesn’t tell you what you need to know to get results in your grievance or to defend in a disciplinary case. Really, it does!

All you need to know is that the RBA will be there when you need it most, working for you, provided that you are a member.

Please be assured that all enquiries into Central Office are confidential, and that, however hopeless things may appear to be to you, we never make things worse, only better. 

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