BUIRA 2019 Stream/ Panel Event – Progressive Employers and Positive Employment Relations.
BUIRA 2019 Stream/ Panel Event – Progressive Employers and Positive Employment Relations – Newcastle – 1-3 July 2019.
Current trends in radical and pluralist industrial relations tend to emphasise employee organizing from below and trade unions as independent social movements, on the one hand; or state regulation from above, on the other (see Heery 2016). In the latter spirit, the 2017 Labour Party manifesto promised to 'roll out sectoral collective bargaining'. The missing link is these narratives is the progressive employer, or what Hyman (2015) has termed, 'good capitalism'. Even the large Partnership literature (see Johnstone 2015), has tended to focus on trade union behaviour.
Organized workers need stable employer recognition for unions to thrive (Simms 2013), something it's almost impossible for the state to impose without substantial employer support. As Ackers (2015) argues, trade union legitimacy power rests on a diamond of stakeholders: employees, the state (political parties), public opinion and employers. Arguably, the last play an important role in shaping the others. More widely, good working conditions and policies to counter the spread of cut-price employment policies like zero-hour contracts, depend on labour market leadership by progressive employers, unionised and non-union.
Progressive employers, such Lever and Cadbury, played a central role in the C20th rise of joint regulations (Clegg et al 1964, Clegg 1985, 1994). British 'Paternalists' not only championed good stable working conditions and employee welfare, but as 'sophisticated moderns' (Fox 1974) promoted and spread trade unions and pluralist IR among the 'standard modern' mainstream. Public employers also spread good employment practice.
This stream/ panel (depending on numbers) invites papers on any aspect of the progressive employer, past, present or future. We are particularly interested in examples of active agency in Developing Positive Employment Relations ((Johnstone & Wilkinson 2016), which challenge the current picture of employers as passive receivers of employment rules. Any employer that promotes good employee working conditions will qualify!
Peter Ackers & Stewart Johnstone