BUIRA 2017: The Changing Face of Industrial Relations: New Borders, New Frontiers

University of Portsmouth

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28th - 30th June 2017

Conference timetable now available.

The theme of BUIRA 2017 is the Changing Face of Industrial Relations: New Borders, New Frontiers. The conference will take place a little over a year after a referendum which resulted in a narrow vote in favour of the UK leaving the European Union (EU). Therefore it will provide an ideal opportunity for participants not only to explore and discuss the future of industrial relations in the UK outside of the EU, but also to consider the portents for industrial relations in Europe and around the world in general. New borders may be springing up, and existing borders hardening, but the frontiers of industrial relations continue to be pushed back, and extended, in some notable ways.

Linked to the rise of right-wing populist politics in many parts of Europe, borders between countries have hardened. To what extent, and in what ways, is it now appropriate to contemplate the implications of further European disintegration for industrial relations, rather than integration? 2017 marks the tenth anniversary of the financial crisis. How far has industrial relations been transformed in Europe under conditions of austerity? To what extent do the ‘European social model’ and the EU’s ‘social dimension’ offer an alternative to a neo-liberal paradigm that has been responsible for a dearth of high quality jobs?

To a large extent, the UK vote to leave the EU reflected discontent about stagnant living standards, growing labour commodification, and the adverse consequences of austerity, which many people, influenced by a partisan media, blamed on EU migration. We have seen the rise of irregular working arrangements (including zero-hour contracts), precarious employment, and bogus self-employment, often associated with the rise of the ‘gig economy’. Yet unions and civil society organizations have made considerable efforts to represent, organize and mobilize workers at the sharp end of labour market change. Workers in the ‘gig economy’ are prepared to challenge employers, often in resourceful and imaginative ways, highlighting the continued relevance of labour conflict. What are the prospects for re-regulating industrial relations, and how does re-regulation manifest itself? In the UK, Theresa May’s government has talked about doing more to reduce inequality, putting workers’ representatives on company boards, and tackling abusive working practices.

Yet this coexists with the recently enacted Trade Union Act 2016 which imposes significant additional restrictions on unions. What, then, is the significance of governmental efforts to re-regulate relations? What are the main trends in respect of multi-level regulation? What is the future of supranational regulation in a clearly ailing EU? And how can we better understand global labour governance arrangements?

In discussing questions like these, participants at BUIRA 2017 will play a key part in exploring the changing face of industrial relations. The frontiers of industrial relations as a field of study continue to expand, providing crucial insights into work, employment, and employment relations in twenty-first century societies. We look forward to receiving submissions that reflect this. Although we welcome papers that concern any area of industrial relations, papers concerning topics under the following three headings will be particularly welcome: 

The changing face of industrial relations: a decade of austerity - the crisis and industrial relations in Europe, 2007-17; public sector industrial relations in a time of austerity; managing industrial relations in a financialized, market economy; ‘commodified’ labour – irregular work, precarious employment and bogus self-employment; the changing nature of work and employment; jobs, skills and the quality of work in the low-pay economy; the impact of the National Living Wage; social class, equality and diversity in industrial relations.

New borders in industrial relations: the prospects of European (dis)integration for industrial relations; the politics of the European social model; labour mobility and migrant workers; re-regulating industrial relations – at national, sub-national and supra-national level; devolved government and industrial relations; global labour governance arrangements; the activities of labour movements across national borders

New frontiers in industrial relations: digitalization and digital labour – implications for work, workers, and societies; working, managing and organizing in the ‘gig economy’; new, neglected and emerging actors in employment relations; new and emerging manifestations of labour conflict.

Empirical (both quantitative and qualitative), analytical, conceptual and methodological papers are all welcome. We would particularly appreciate submissions from early career researchers and doctoral students.

Submission details

Abstracts of papers should be submitted via the BUIRA website via this link.

Deadline for submission of abstracts: 17th February 2017.

Abstracts are refereed anonymously by BUIRA Executive Committee members.

Decisions will be notified by late March 2017.