News Room

BUIRA 2021 Online Conference: The past, present and future of industrial relations and the politics of work

Dear BUIRA members,

Please register for the FREE online BUIRA annual conference 2021 (13 - 15 July 2021):

BUIRA 2021 Online Conference: The past, present and future of industrial relations and the politics of work

About this event

BUIRA turning 70 last year presents a good opportunity to reflect on the past, present and future of industrial relations. This was the topic of the postponed 2020 conference, and, if anything, is more salient than ever. Despite facing recent challenges, the field of industrial relations continues to be a vital topic of academic and practitioner enquiry. Issues that have long been central within the study of industrial relations, such as pay, collective bargaining, rights at work, employee representation, national and transnational forms of regulation, health and safety, job (in)security, precarity, equality and diversity, and workplace conflict are highly prominent within many current political and academic debates. Understanding the politics of work, grounded in a critical social science tradition, is crucial for academics and policy makers alike.

Where are we now? How have we got here, and what should the future of the field look like? Reflecting on historical developments in industrial relations is crucial in order to ground and contextualise current developments in the world of work. History matters in helping us to understand the changing nature of industrial relations, and yet is often overlooked in modern accounts of work relations. It is also important to reflect on pressing current issues. Most notably, what has/will continue to be the implications of Coronavirus for employment relations and the future of work? This was the subject of the BUIRA Special Seminar on November 4th 2020, and an ongoing research issue for BUIRA members. What about the continuing impact of austerity and the 2008 financial crisis in a more financialised world, increasing inequality, as well as economic and social challenges caused by the Covid pandemic and Brexit? What have been the consequences for public sector industrial relations? What is the impact of patterns of precarious work and non-standard employment relationships on the changing nature of work and employment, skills and the quality of work? Across all of these questions, issues of social class, equality and diversity remain more relevant than ever before. Looking to the future, one key question concerns the extent to which unions can play an active role with social movements to tackle climate breakdown. How is power deployed and distributed at work? How much voice and influence do employees have? Whither economic and industrial democracy at work?

Plenary Speakers:

Judy Wajcman
Anne McBride
Jenny K Rodriguez
Sian Moore

The conference will also feature an 'Early Career Researcher Plenary Panel' (with Jean Jenkins as Discussant) and a 'Work in the Real World' Special Session with the Manchester Trades Union Council.

We look forward to welcoming you to our FREE online conference. All we ask is that you ensure your BUIRA membership is up-to-date before registering ( If you have any questions, please get in touch:

The full conference programme will be published shortly.

8th June 2021