Report on BUIRA History of Industrial Relations Study Group, 2010/11


The Inaugural Meeting of the BUIRA History of Industrial Relations Study Group was held on 2 July 2010 at the 60th Annual Conference of BUIRA at Manchester Metropolitan University. It was chaired by Michael Gold and Linda Clarke, and in attendance were Peter Ackers, Cec Bingham, Ralph Darlington, Tricia Dawson, Ian Fitzgerald, Richard Hyman, Dave Lyddon, Sian Moore, Mike Richardson, Paul Smith and John Stirling.


Following a general discussion, we agreed to hold 3/4 seminars in the first year, and review frequency in the light of experience. Seminars should focus not only on the UK.


Over the last year, we shall have held three seminars, with around 20-25 people attending the first two (this report predates the third in July). In both cases we had active trade union as well as academic participation. We are planning a seminar on ‘Wapping: 25 Years On’ to open our 2011/12 series.


Our inaugural seminar was Gender, Technology and Labour: Reconsidering Post Office Industrial Relations in the 20th century (22 November 2010, 4.00–6.00pm) held at the

British Postal Museum and Archive (BPMA), London. Amongst those contributing were Peter Donaghy, Vice Chair Postal Executive of the Communication Workers’ Union, and Norman Candy, policy advisor to the Deputy General Secretary (Postal). Dr Helen Glew, University of Westminster, spoke on “The Women’s Side”: Female Staff, Unions and Official Negotiation Processes in the General Post Office, c.1920–c.1955, and Peter Sutton, Centre for Contemporary British History at King’s College, London, on The Consequences of 1971 for Staff-management Relations: Conflict, Compromise and Technological Change.


Our second seminar was entitled All Change in the Print (13 April 2011, 4.00–6.00pm), at the University of Westminster, London. We welcomed Tony Burke, Assistant General Secretary, UNITE, and former Deputy General Secretary of GPMU, as one of our contributors. Tricia Dawson, University of Westminster, gave a paper on Work Organisation and Women’s Invisibility in the Printing Industry and its Effect on the Gender Pay Gap, which was followed by Michael Richardson, Centre for Employment Studies Research, University of the West of England on Beyond Blue-Collar: Organising White-collar Workers in a Printing and Packaging Company in the 1960s, and Ian Fitzgerald, Sustainable Cities Research Institute (SCRI), Northumbria University who presented his Reflections on the Changing Nature of the Print and the Role of the Unions.


Our third, and full-day, event is scheduled as Academic Careers, Social Science and Public Policy: The Case of Post-War Industrial Relations Reform (1 July 2011, 10.30am-15.30 pm) in partnership with the Business School, Loughborough University, with four speakers: Peter Ackers, Loughborough, on Hugh Clegg and the Donovan Reform Programme; John Kelly, Birkbeck, on Ethical Socialism and the Trade Unions: Allan Flanders and British Industrial Relations Reform; Bruce Kaufman, Georgia State, USA & Visiting Professor, Loughborough, on John Dunlop, Clark Kerr and the Political Economy of Post-WWII American Industrial Relations; and Richard Whiting, Leeds on Politicians and Thinking about Trade Unions: 1960-1980.

We are now in the throes of planning our events for 2011/12. So far, we have a seminar lined up entitled The Wapping Dispute: 25 Years On (Wednesday 30 November, 6.00pm), at the Bishopsgate Institute, in Bishopsgate, London. Linda Melvern, author of The End of the Street (Methuen: 1986), has agreed to be one of our speakers.

We look forward to seeing you there, but meanwhile, if you have any ideas or suggestions for future events, we’ll be delighted to hear from you.

Michael Gold/ Linda Clarke

June 2011