Its origins and early development
London BUIRA was founded in 1971 as the London Industrial Relations Seminar and was originally arranged jointly between London-based extra-mural departments and the Society of Industrial Tutors, which provided financial and secretarial backing. Like BUIRA itself (formed in 1950) it was intended to support the teaching and research of industrial relations specialists, drawn from university extra-mural departments, WEA districts, polytechnics, technical colleges and colleges of further education. It was for many years organised by Geoffrey Stuttard (1920-2013) and by the 1980s was held on Saturdays (having been originally held on Fridays at 4.45pm) in the Polytechnic of Central London before this became the University of Westminster in 1992.
The seminars usually took a particular theme, ranging in the early days from motor industry industrial relations – with Bud Rosenthal, the head of Ford World Tractor Industrial Relations – to topics like industrial relations in West Europe and the Far East, the USA and the Soviet Union, the development of the Solidarity Union in Poland, the 35-week dispute in West Germany, and labour law in Mauritius. The seminars then were the only way in which industrial relations tutors could meet and were rather a contrast to BUIRA itself, which originally ran about three or four big lectures per year with little discussion, until it was decided to form different groups both at the Annual Conferences and in different parts of the country.
Central London BUIRA nowadays
With the exception of the covid year 2021-2022, London BUIRA has run every year since 1971. Where possible seminars have been held every month, on the last Friday morning of the month, though this has not always been possible. Over the past 15 years a range of different themes has been covered, from changes in employment relations and alternatives to austerity to European integration and how to achieve equality, as well as topical issues such as digitalisation, platform work, the just transition to the green economy and contemporary industrial disputes. Each seminar consists of speakers from the UK, Europe and further afield, and our audiences – from academia, unions, employers’ associations, and a diverse array of organisations, national, European and global – are always lively, full of questions and comments. Suggestions for seminars are initially discussed at the annual BUIRA conference and we very much welcome further proposals.
Linda Clarke, University of Westminster (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Michael Gold, Royal Holloway University of London