July 13th to 15th 2021

Plenary Speakers:

Judy Wajcman http://www.lse.ac.uk/sociology/people/judy-wajcman

Anne McBride https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/a.mcbride.html

Jenny K Rodriguez https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/jenny.rodriguez.html

Sian Moore https://www.gre.ac.uk/people/rep/faculty-of-business/sian-moore

Kirsty Newsome https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/management/staff/kirsty_newsome/index

Jean Jenkins https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/people/view/610450-jenkins-jean

The conference will also feature an ‘Early Career Researcher Plenary Pannel’ and a ‘Work in the Real World’ Special Session with Ian Allinson (President of the Manchester TUC) and others.

Call for Abstracts 

Due to Covid, the 2021 conference will be a virtual online event, but with potential for some hybrid participation at Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, if public health allows. A decision regarding on campus activities will be communicated no later than 30 April 2021. Information about plenary speakers and non-paper sessions will be provided once confirmed.

The 2021 conference will be FREE to BUIRA members. Non-members will only need to pay the £40 BUIRA (£20 for PhD students and associate members) membership fee.

Call for papers 

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?

We welcome empirical (both quantitative and qualitative), analytical, conceptual and methodological papers that concern any area of industrial relations, or fields cognate to industrial relations. We would particularly appreciate submissions from early career researchers and doctoral students. Papers concerning topics under the following headings will be particularly welcome:

  •         The implications of Covid for employment relations and futures of work
  •         The implications of Brexit for work and employment relations
  •         Reflections and challenges for Equality and Diversity, and challenging the gender pay gap
  •         The consequences of new technology, digitalisation and the growth of platforms for work and industrial relations
  •         Climate emergency and industrial relations
  •         Comparative and international industrial relations
  •         Political economy of work (e.g. austerity, financialisation, fragmentation, flexibilisation and inequality)
  •         New forms of collective action in the workplace and beyond, and new agents of resistance
  •         The rise of populism/nationalism and industrial relations
  •         Power, politics, voice and influence at work


CfP: BUIRA Doctoral Workshop – ‘Critical Friendship in Industrial Relations Research’

This year BUIRA organises a one-day pre-conference Doctoral Workshop, which will take place in online on Monday 12th July 2021 (the afternoon prior to the main BUIRA Annual Conference: Time TBC). Following a previous successful session run with Professor Melanie Simms in 2016, this is an exercise in critical friendship where all participants circulate a piece of written work three-weeks before the session. This workshop offers a unique opportunity to get to know fellow academics and postgraduate research students in the field, exercise critical thinking and receive constructive feedback to your ideas from an expert outside of your supervisory team.

Please submit abstracts to register your interest by Tuesday 18th May 2021. We will then be in touch to confirm your place. The deadline for the ‘full paper’ or any written work you intend to submit is Friday 18th June 2021. Please submit via e-mail: admin@buira.org.

Please also note that we are happy to accept the same submission for both the Doctoral Workshop and the Doctoral Prize sponsored by the BJIR.

The session will be chaired by Professor Miguel Martínez Lucio, co-director of the Work & Equalities Institute (AMBS, University of Manchester) and Co-editor in Chief of New Technology Work and Employment. Miguel will be joined by several critical friends and experts in their respective fields including: Robert MacKenzie (Karlstat University, Sweden); Peter Prowse (Sheffield Hallam University); Tony Dundon (AMBS and University of Limerick); Jane Holgate (University of Leeds); Peter Turnbull (University of Bristol); Jo McBride (University of Durham); Vera Trappmann (University of Leeds); Chris Forde (University of Leeds) and others TBC.

We aim to split the session into thematic areas with one or two critical friends facilitating each session (aiming for a ratio of approximately 1:4). The broad themes are as follows*:

(1) Industrial relations and critical HRM

(2) New technologies and the future of work

(3) Institutional regulation and H&S

(4) Intersectionality and employment inequalities

*Please note these may be subject to change depending on the submissions.

Outline of the session

The piece of written work does NOT have to be a full conference paper. It can be a case study, developed literature review, methods-section, reflection piece (or any interim-style paper), as well as more fully developed papers or thesis chapters. The aim of this is to be inclusive to researchers at all stages of their doctoral projects.

There are three main objectives:

  • To provide a forum for doctoral students to receive feedback on their ideas no matter where they are in the project.
  • To develop the skills, culture and practice of critical friendship within BUIRA.
  • To provide a forum for discussion significantly different from usual conference papers.

Participants will submit a piece of written work before the session. An indicative maximum word length is 4,000 words in order to keep the pre-workshop workload manageable. We have chosen this word length to be complimentary of the length of the submission for the doctoral best paper prize, but submissions can also be as short as the participant wishes. The objective is that participants submit something they think they can get useful feedback on through the process of critical friendship.

Written work is NOT anonymised nor peer reviewed for acceptance. The only requirement for participating in the session is that someone is a doctoral student in the broad area of industrial relations. We are happy to accept submissions from doctoral students not presenting in the conference on the condition that they are a BUIRA member. Please note we are asking for abstracts only to organise them thematically and ensure we have contacted an appropriate number of critical friends.

All written work is collated a circulated to all participants prior to the event along with guidance for principles of critical friendship in this document. All participants must read all written submissions in advance of the session and prepare feedback in line with the principles of critical friendship.

Any participant who does not submit a written document will not be allowed to attend the session. It is essential that critical friendship is reciprocal.

Each piece of submitted work is then discussed by the group, led by the facilitator, and feedback is given. This can range from questions about the premise of the argument, suggestions for improvement and development, etc. Principles of respect and support are agreed in advance and it is the responsibility of all to ensure they are upheld.


Best Doctoral Student Paper Award sponsored by the British Journal of Industrial Relations Wiley, the publisher of the British Journal of Industrial Relations, have kindly agreed to sponsor a £250 prize for the best written conference paper at the 2021 BUIRA annual conference.

This award is BUIRA’s distinction given to the best doctoral student paper presented at the annual BUIRA conference. Following acceptance of an initial abstract, doctoral students are invited to submit papers ahead of conference that proceed through a blind review process to determine the winner of the competition. The award is typically accompanied by a £250 prize. The recipient is invited to receive the award during the President’s address held at the beginning of the conference.

Doctoral students interested in submitting a paper for this award must have had a paper accepted for presentation at the annual conference and must be a fully paid-up student member of BUIRA.

To be considered for the award:

  • Papers must be sole authored;
  • Papers should be no longer than 4,000 words, not including references, abstract and appendices. They should be in 12 point font, double spaced with page numbers at the bottom of each page
  • Papers should begin with a cover page containing the title and an abstract of no more than 200 words outlining the purpose of the paper, the methods used and the main conclusion/ argument
  • Papers can be empirical or theoretical and can cover any general area of employment relations. They should be structured in an appropriate way (see below)

Papers should, in general, be clearly structured and contain:

  • Introduction– that sets out the focus of the paper, its relevance and key research questions
  • Review– a review of key background literature, the limitations of current debate and the rationale and contribution of the paper (theoretical and historical essays will tend to be structured as an extended review)
  • Methods– an account of the methods used, why such methods were appropriate and how data were collated and analysed. Quantitative papers should make it clear what techniques were used and set out key measures and variables (dependent, independent, controls etc)
  • Findings– should analyse relevant data in a way that clearly seeks to address the main research questions/ themes of the paper. Where interview quotations are used they should follow recognised conventions. Likewise, quantitative data should be reported in an appropriate tabular format and include key tests of significance.
  • Discussion and conclusions– this section should draw together the main findings of the paper and relate them back to the key questions animating the paper and how this contributes to wider debate (the conclusion should not simply summarise the findings)
  • References– to be presented in Harvard format.

The deadline for the submission of full papers is: 18th June 2021

Papers should be sent to: admin@buira.org and will be blind reviewed by all members of the committee.