Why employment relations matter(s) for governance of problems for labour in the real world of work

Tony Dobbins

The purpose of this Research Insights article is to emphasise why employment relations matter(s) for governance of problems for labour in the real world of work. This article presents two main points of novelty. One is the contemporary contribution of ER in relation to emergent research themes addressing real-world challenges: the COVID-19 pandemic, climate emergency, intersectionality, technological change and good work. The conceptual boundaries of work and employment/industrial relations research have therefore expanded beyond a traditional focus on collective bargaining and trade unions (although these remain vital). These contemporary themes mainly concern problems for labour, rather than traditional perceived problems of labour. The second, related, contribution is that ER has developed its analytical apparatus so as to be sensitive to concrete real-world issues, like climate change, and new perspectives in social science, like intersectionality. So, overall, there is a new and evolving conversation between analytical perspectives and real-world challenges. [Re]asserting core ER perspectives and specifying a research agenda and road map around big picture themes and challenges, the article follows other critical scholars in suggesting that it is important that ER researchers continue to speak truth to power in pursuit of ‘sociological imagination’ relating to the world of work.