University of Birmingham, June 28th-30th 2022


Why race and intersectionality matter for IR:

Tamara Lee (Rutgers University, US)


How and Where Employment Relations Matter(s):

Paul Edwards 


Why green industrial relations matter(s) for climate emergency:

Linda Clarke (University of Westminster

Béla Galgóczi (European Trade Union Institute)

Vera Trappmann (University of Leeds)


Programme and Timetable outline:

Full programme

Timetable outline



Registration is now closed.


Conference theme

The theme of this year’s conference is Why Employment Relations Matter(s) for Democratizing Work.

Keith Sisson (2009, 2020) outlines Why Employment Relations MattersEmployment relations matters is a ten chapter text publicly available under a Creative Commons Licence. It has a double intention reflected in its title: to ensure people are up to date with the matters that the study of employment relations deals with and to explain why they matter. It has two main audiences in mind. First, people who teach and study employment relations. Second, practitioners and policy-makers.

Unsurprisingly, BUIRA has long argued that Employment Relations Matter(s). In ‘What’s The Point of Industrial Relations?’ the message was clear: ‘The agenda of industrial relations research and teaching thus has fundamental moral and practical importance’ than many other fields of study in contemporary business schools (BUIRA 2009, 53).

Employment relations commentators have also recently shown Why Employment Relations Matters. For example, Hodder and Martínez Lucio’s (2021) paper ‘Pandemics, politics, and the resilience of employment relations research’ suggests that the Covid-19 pandemic has appeared to change the public narrative on work and employment, and highlighted the continued relevance and value of employment relations as a field of study. They conclude that the Covid crisis has highlighted the resilience of the field of employment relations, reminding us of its critical relevance to academic and public interest. They outline the challenges faced by academics and practitioners in the field of employment relations to build upon this new found attention to ensure that employment relations issues remain central in terms of research, teaching and public policy.

Why Employment Relations Matters for Democratizing (and Decommodifying) Work has been strongly illustrated in the context of the Coronavirus public health pandemic. The pandemic has highlighted just how vital human work of social (not financial) value is for keeping human life and society functioning. Human workers are not merely commodities or human ‘resources’.

IR/ER and politics of work scholars have been at the forefront and contributed extensively to research and public policy during the pandemic to showcase why Employment Relations Matter(s) for Democratizing Work. To provide just a few illustrative examples: The social value of human labour during Covid (Martinez Lucio and McBride, 2020Winton and Howcroft, 2020); analysis of the furlough/job retention scheme (Stuart et al., 2021); the real living wage and addressing cost of living increases (Dobbins and Prowse, 2021); the effect of Covid on workers’ health and safety in places like call centres (Taylor, 2020).

That said, a clear message that emerged from the 2021 BUIRA conference is that there is scope for our field to extend it’s contribution to vital social matters like intersectionality – the intersection of identities around issues like gender, sexuality, race and class (Lee and Tapia, 2021McBride et al., 2015Moore and Taylor, 2021). Intersectionality is a domain where employment relations does and should matter. There is also potential for work and employment scholars to contribute to thinking and public policy debates on green IR and climate crisis (Clarke and Lipsig-Mummé, 2020).

Evidently, the field of ER/IR has broadened considerably thematically since the early historical focus on collective bargaining and IR institutions and rules. However, it needs to continually adapt and update to address issues arising in the real world of the politics of work.

Conference fee £190 full and £70 PhD

There will also be a pre-conference Doctoral Workshop on Monday June 27th. Details to follow.


The City of Birmingham has a range of hotels and below is a list of hotels we recommend in the city centre.

·         Holiday Inn Birmingham

·         Clayton Hotel Birmingham

·         Travelodge Birmingham Central Bull Ring

·         ibis Birmingham New Street Station

·         Hyatt Regency Birmingham Hotel

·         Hotel Indigo Birmingham

·         Malmaison Birmingham

·         Premier Inn (various locations near New St in city centre)

All hotels are within a 3-mile radius of the University of Birmingham and are easily accessible via train, bus and car.

Please note that the University’s UCU branch is currently boycotting the campus’ Edgbaston Park Hotel.