Industrial Relations in the Era of Multiple Crises:  

Inequalities, Industrial Action, & Intersectionalities after COVID-19

CONFERENCE PROGRAM

July 17-19  |  Pre-conference Doctoral Workshop: July 16

QMUL, School of Business & Management

Keynotes confirmed

  1. Professor Adia Harvey Wingfield (Washington University St Louis) – Gray Areas: How the way we work perpetuates racism & what we can do to fix it
  2. Professor Ryan Lamare (University of Illinois) – Industrial Relations Research In The Era Of Crisis: Rethinking how unions & politics interact

Description

From the shift to remote and hybrid work to the resurgence of unconditional welfare transfers and industrial action, the world of work experienced some of the most dramatic changes in decades as a result of the economic and public health measures implemented over the last three years (Dobbins et al. 2023). Despite the World Health Organisation declaring the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in May 2023, some of these new work arrangements remain and the rapidly escalating climate crisis compounds the challenges regarding the role and the future of industrial relations.

In the post-pandemic era, we witnessed rising industrial action across sectors and countries after decades of idleness, while grassroots unions also emerged in many sectors. With rising consumer prices and tight labour markets, the context may seem favourable to unions (Visser 2023). At the same time, the right to strike is under threat in many countries. Against this background, a key challenge for labour movements going forward is the extent to which the comeback of strike activity can be sustained and what forms of strikes and mobilisation is more efficient in the current socio-political environment (Kallas 2023; Massenkoff & Wilmers 2022). As discussed extensively in the 2023 BUIRA conference, temporary and on-demand work has been rising rapidly across the world, thus, industrial relations scholars should actively investigate how mobilising and organising strategies work differently across sectors.

Amid the escalating climate crisis, unions also face the question of how to balance their demands between the necessary green transition and job protection (ILO, 2015; Crawford and Whyte, 2023; Morena et al, 2020). In other words, paraphrasing Freeman and Medoff (1984): What should unions be doing in the age of climate crisis? This question is of transnational importance as climate action requires coordinated efforts. In this respect, the role of international organizations like the ILO and ITUC will be of great importance (Clarke & Sahin-Dikmen 2023). Yet, the impact of workplace changes differ across socio-economic status, gender, race, and class that are often specific to each country’s or sector’s context (Milkman et al. 2021; Kelly et al. 2023). Therefore, local unions should remain key stakeholders.

Building on the discussion surrounding linkages between industrial relations and critical race/intersectional theory that started in the 2022 BUIRA conference (Lee and Tapia 2021), this year’s conference aims to initiate a more thorough discussion on how industrial relations scholars can help address these structural inequalities that will inevitably emerge in the context of the green transition. Consequently, a theme that will become increasingly important in the upcoming years is how unions can become more inclusive and actively cooperate with broader social movements, like Black Lives Matters, Climate Justice Now!, and the Extinction Rebellion, among others (Terriquez et al. 2021).

The organising committee of the 2024 BUIRA Annual Conference invites papers that reflect on the future of industrial relations, labour movements, and work in the era of the climate crisis and attacks on unions. In particular, authors are encouraged to address questions related to the following themes:

  • How can unions effectively mobilise workers across all sections of society?
  • What forms of industrial action can be more effective in an environment where the right to strike is under threat?
  • How should unions defend labour rights in the context of the green transition?
  • How can unions cooperate at the national and international level to achieve a just green transition?
  • Can unions grow by becoming more inclusive?

We also invite papers that reflect on contemporary issues that go beyond the aforementioned questions, in particular:

  • Collective bargaining
  • Wage inequalities & Job Quality
  • Employee voice in the ‘gig economy’
  • Precarious contracts
  • Politics of work & industrial relations under right-wing populism
  • Post-pandemic remote & hybrid work
  • Just transition and labour standards

We encourage authors to reflect on the policy implications and relevance of their work.

 

References

Clarke, L., & Sahin-Dikmen, M. (2023). “Workers and labour movements in the fight against climate change.” In Atzeni, M., Azzellini, D., Mezzadri, A., Apitzsch, U., & Moore, P. V. (Eds). Handbook of Research on the Global Political Economy of Work. Edward Elgar.

Crawford, B. & Whyte, D. (2023). Working for Climate Justice: trade unions in the front line against climate change. Institute of Employment Rights.

Dobbins, T., Johnstone, S., Kahancová, M., Lamare, J. R., & Wilkinson, A. (2023). Comparative impacts of the COVID‐19 pandemic on work and employment—Why industrial relations institutions matter. Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, 62(2), 115-125.

Freeman, R.B., & Medoff, J.L. (1984). What Do Unions Do? Basic Books.

ILO (2015). Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all. Genevea: International Labor Organization. Available at:  https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@ed_emp/@emp_ent/documents/publication/wcms_432859.pdf

Kallas, J. (2023). Retooling militancy: Labour revitalization and fixed‐duration strikes. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 61(1), 68-88.

Kelly, E. L., Rahmandad, H., Wilmers, N., & Yadama, A. (2023). How Do Employer Practices Affect Economic Mobility?. ILR Review, 76(5), 792-832.

Lee, T. L., & Tapia, M. (2021). Confronting race and other social identity erasures: the case for critical industrial relations theory. ILR Review, 74(3), 637-662.

Massenkoff, M., & Wilmers, N. (2022). Economic Outcomes of Strikers in an Era of Weak Unions. Journal of Labor Economics, Forthcoming.

Milkman, R., Elliott-Negri, L., Griesbach, K., & Reich, A. (2021). Gender, class, and the gig economy: The case of platform-based food delivery. Critical Sociology, 47(3), 357-372.

Morena, E., Krause, D., & Stevis, D. (2020). Just Transitions: Social Justice in a Low-Carbon World. Pluto Press.

Terriquez, V., & Milkman, R. (2021). Immigrant and refugee youth organizing in solidarity with the movement for Black lives. Gender & Society, 35(4), 577-587.

Visser, J. (2023). Will they rise again? Four scenarios for the future of trade unions. Economic and Industrial Democracy, Forthcoming.