Annual Report: Central London BUIRA 2018-2019

Three seminars were organised for the programme this year, each well-attended (c30 participants) and with very lively discussions. The programme focussed on changing industrial relations, employment and labour law at a global level.


  1. 25th January 2019, Changes in industrial relations in China, with Prof Willy Brown (University of Cambridge) on Emerging Industrial Relations in China and Dr Tim Pringle (SOAS, University of London) Labour organizing, trade union reform and working class power in China

Willy Brown provided an overview of recent developments in IR in China drawing on the recent book he co-edited, The Emerging Industrial Relations of China, with Chang Kai of Renmin University, and a group of young Chinese scholars, as well as Tim Pringle. Tim, who is a senior lecturer in Labour, Social Movements and Development, discussed the case of the Yantian International Container Terminal, arguing that the YICT union developed a system of annual collective bargaining in order to ‘tame’ the power of militant dockworkers and prevent strikes. This required an effective enterprise-level trade union that was able to manipulate members’ somewhat ambiguous acceptance of its role.

  1. 22nd February 2019, Global value chains and their employment implications, with Dr Jean Jenkins (University of Cardiff) The international supply chain in garment assembly and Dr Nikolaus Hammer (University of Leicester) on Economic and Social Up-/Downgrading in UK Apparel Value Chains

Jean Jenkins spoke about the international supply chain in garment assembly, focusing on the methods of control employed at the workplace in a fiercely competitive environment where local labour relations are a crucial factor in controlling costs. She focused on the business model in international context, reflecting on the use of ethnicity, gender and poverty as part of local managerial regimes of control and refering in particular to the example of the manipulation of time and debt inside factories past and present. Nik Hammer then analysed recent developments within UK apparel manufacturing, notably its considerable growth since 2008. He focused on the links between specific business models and value chains such as fast fashion, on one hand, restructuring at the level of manufacturers and workplaces, on the other. At the same time, he considered the changing relations between production and reproduction, exploring to what extent exploitative work and employment practices are embedded in specific localities or, rather, the outcome of specific forms of value chain governance.


  1. 31st May 2019, Labour law and sustainability with Dr Ania Zbyszewska (University of Warwick) Work regulation and environmental sustainability: Moving beyond the discourse of conflicting rights, and Sam Mason (Public and Commercial Services Union) Labour law problems for unions in achieving a just transition

Ania Zbyszewska talked about her research on the interface of work and environmental regulation, which focuses on legal contestations and conflicts produced by jurisdictional boundaries and legal dis/articulation, but also probes the possibilities inherent in more ecologically-attuned forms of work regulation and governance. Sam Mason, Policy Officer at PCS, focused on the impacts of climate change and the environment on workers, particularly the labour law aspects of Just Transition, including the weaknesses of trade union strategy rooted in a social dialogue model and current UK labour law weighted towards capital.


Linda Clarke

June 2019