Annual Report: Central London BUIRA 2017


Four seminars were organised for the programme this year, each well-attended (c30 participants) and with very lively discussions. The programme focussed on very different themes of key importance to industrial relations.


27 January 2017, Union membership and industrial action in Germany and Britain, Dr Heiner Dribbusch (Institute of Economic and Social Research, WSI, Germany) on Organising through conflict and Professor John Kelly (Birkbeck College) on Do strikes increase trade union membership? This seminar was about union organising and membership in the contrasting cases of Germany and Britain. Heiner Dribbusch, drawing on his recent paper published in the ETUI journal Transfer, examined strike activity in Germany between 2004 and 2015 in the public and private services sectors, particularly by the second largest union, ver.di,. He showed how industrial disputes constitute decisive moments for unions to demonstrate their effectiveness, acting as a catalyst to union building, though not a magic bullet. In contrast, John Kelly, based on a 7 year dataset of trade union membership joiners and leavers from a major British trade union and drawing on a paper to be published in the British Journal of Industrial Relations, showed how periods of strike action are associated with a significantly higher rate of membership and that new members are motivated by perceived injustice and union effectiveness.


24 February 2017, Labour and global governance, Dr Frank Hoffer (Bureau for Workers’ Activities, ILO) tbc and Dr Yvonne Rückert (University of Portsmouth) on Global unions and World Bank and IMF policies,

This seminar focused on the changing nature of the global governance system and the interaction of some of its actors, including the Global Unions, the ILO and the international financial organisations (IMF and World Bank). Frank Hoffer discussed changes in global governance and their significance for trade unions everywhere, arguing that the deeper engagement of trade unions with the ILO is essential in the decent work agenda. Yvonne Rückert showed how the formalised dialogue between the Global Unions and the IFIs has developed since the international actors signed an agreement in 2002. Her research explores factors that hinder and promote the progress of a dialogue that can be considered as a strategic instrument for the Global Unions in providing them with a means to influence IFIs policies and to shape the rules and institutions of global governance towards a more worker-friendly regime.


31 March 2017 Transforming labour in Central and Eastern Europe: Europeanisation, dependant capitalism, labour weakening and awakening, Dr Violaine Delteil (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle) and Dr Vassil Kirov (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Université d’Evry, ETUI).

This seminar focussed on the marked differences with the rest of Europe still evident in the fields of labour, work and industrial relations in Eastern Europe, over a quarter of a century after the fall of the Berlin Wall and more than ten years after the accession of Central and Eastern Europe into the European Union. Drawing on their recent book, Labour and Social Transformation in Central and Eastern Europe (Routledge, 2017), Violaine Delteil and Vassil Kirov presented a detailed analysis of the original and “big transformation” that has taken place in a wide range of countries in in the region. They stressed the singularity of national models in the light of the diversity of capitalisms and explored the various dimensions of the “dependant capitalism model” that most countries from the region illuminate. They addressed the key issues of the Europeanization of the new member states and the cumulative trends of labour weakening and labour awakening that emerged in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 crisis.


28 April 2017, Changing employment status and new forms of work organisation, with Dr Jan Drahoukoupil (ETUI) on The Platform Economy and the Disruption of the Employment Relationship and Annie Powell (Leigh Day Law Firm) on The fight for workers’ rights in the digital economy: Uber and other cases. This seminar explored the implications for employment and the labour market of the rapid development of new forms of working associated with digitalisation. Jan Drahokoupil (ETUI) presented the work he has been undertaking on production networks and the future of work, in particular the business model of a platform economy. He argued that this represents an extension of market mechanisms that has serious implications for workers, requiring particular measures including special protection, a framework for self-employment and an extension of collective bargaining possibilities. This was complemented by Annie Powell who spoke about the reasons for the decision in the Uber driver case and its implications for other claims, including Deliveroo.


Linda Clarke, University of Westminster

Michael Gold, Royal Holloway

June 2017