General Non-fiction

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General Non-Fiction

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This chapter provides a reflection on theoretical framing and contributions within the field of industrial relations, notably, system and stability theories, and the importance of the role of crises within them. The chapter argues that the main theoretical contributions in industrial relations have appeared on the idea of crisis as the focal point of the ‘labour problem’ notion at the centre of the field of industrial relations. The lack of a ‘grand theory’ of industrial relations is counterpoised with the significant existing and future theoretical contributions industrial relations can make to understandings of economic crisis, inequality and technological change.

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This chapter focuses on conflict at work and industrial action – topics that have arguably slipped down the agenda within industrial relations in line with the wider decline in incidence and extent of strikes in recent decades. These wider trends are considered in the context of the more recent, albeit limited, upsurge of industrial action since 2022 in Britain and elsewhere. The chapter then considers the reasons behind strikes and industrial action, some recent innovations in industrial action, and the enduring importance of ‘examining whether the means are available to workers to express the conflict they are subject to and part of’. The chapter ends with a discussion of the extent to which capital should be worried about industrial action.

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This chapter focuses on the role of management in relation to the framing of actors within the employment relationship. Human resource management can have three uses: ‘as a field of study’, addressing factors influencing how people are managed; as a specific model delivering firm-level ‘competitive advantage’, for example, high-commitment management or high-performance work systems; or as a ‘normative perspective’, for example, searching for best practice or best-fit human resource arrangements. The chapter explores the nature of (analytical) human resource management, its intertwined relationship with the field of industrial relations and the importance of more critical, analytical approaches to human resource management, with a focus on ‘how people are managed at work and why they encounter certain employment experiences’, compared to more prescriptive, managerialist variants.

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This chapter outlines and discusses the emergence of ‘new actors’ within industrial relations. Such actors include civil society organizations, law firms, employment agencies, employer forums and other bodies outside a traditional focus on employers, workers and unions, and the state. The chapter contextualizes these actors with the traditional actors involved in the management of the employment relationship. The label ‘new’ can be applied to such actors (which can be individuals, organizations, institutions or movements), which either did not used to have much of a role within traditional industrial relations or did have one but were neglected. Therefore, the chapter argues that these ‘new actors’ play an increasingly significant role in the employment relationship.

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In this chapter, the authors focus on new technology and the role of online platforms in terms of their impact on work and industrial relations. Themes of flexibility, work autonomy, digital technology and self-employment are explored with a highly illustrative case study of parcel delivery. This discussion begins by contextualizing the nature of parcel delivery in the UK, before considering the contractual status of delivery workers. Throughout the chapter, the authors highlight the relationship between such ‘flexible’ work, labour market segregation and inequality. The chapter outlines the contradictory relationship between digital technology and self-employment, and examines the implications for workers and industrial relations by considering the extent to which digital monitoring diminishes worker autonomy.

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This chapter provides an in-depth analysis of the ‘frames of reference’ in the academic field of industrial relations. In doing so, it explores notions of interests within the employment relationship and identifies different analytical approaches to the world of work that are informed by pluralist, unitary and radical frameworks. The chapter charts the movement of more unitary frames of reference into human resource management and management studies while discussing the consolidation of more critical and radical framing within industrial relations itself.

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This chapter explores the relationship between industrial relations and labour law, subjects that have developed in silos to some extent in more recent decades but that clearly have a great deal to offer each other given their common focus on industrial justice and mobilization in relation to law and the legal and regulatory system, and the empirical contribution of industrial relations to a more contextualized, sociological or socio-legal understanding of law in relation to work and employment. The chapter highlights the importance of the interplay of social norms with formal legal norms, the interaction of workers with society at large and its political and legal institutions, and particular country-, locality- or industry-specific institutional contexts. The call for the ‘recovery of a shared tradition’ highlights these interrelationships and the subsequent scope for shared agendas in the future.

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This chapter critically analyses the relationship between the field of industrial relations and intersectionality. The authors argue that intersectionality – a focus on the influence of, and interrelationship between, gender, ‘race’, class and other characteristics – is underdeveloped in industrial relations research and call for greater sensitivity within the field to such structural inequalities, how they intersect and their relevance for the study of the employment relationship. The relationship between intersectionality and industrial relations is ambiguous, undefined and full of tensions, yet full of conceptual, theoretical, methodological and empirical possibilities. The chapter reflects on how intersectionality has ‘travelled’ through industrial relations by identifying trends in its use in industrial relations scholarship and wider implications for the analysis of inequalities in the industrial relations discipline.

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This chapter outlines the rationale for the edited collection, before discussing the contemporary nature of industrial relations in Britain. The chapter considers the boundaries of industrial relations as a field of study, reflecting on the importance of having the employment relationship at the heart of industrial relations research. In doing so, the chapter outlines how the developments, tensions and social changes of relevance to work and employment in recent years remain central to the concerns and ongoing research within industrial relations as a field of study.

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This chapter highlights the particular contribution of industrial relations to our understanding of labour markets. It explores the changing nature of labour markets and wider long-term developments, including: globalization; the dominance of the service sector; the fragmentation of employing organizations through the use of outsourcing; and flexibilization, feminization and financialization. These wider trends are analysed with reference to key recent developments in terms of technology, platform work, the pandemic and prospects for the further deterioration and segmentation of conditions of work. The chapter analyses the implications of COVID-19 and the subsequent cost-of-living crisis for these longer-term trends, and considers the likely direction and force of future trends without a reversal of current policy agendas.

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