BSA Early Career Regional Forum: Theorising worker-employer relations in the new world of work

4th April 2019

Leeds University Business School

                    Call For Papers:

Dr Jo Cutter, Lecturer in Work & Employment Relations

Dr Simon Joyce, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

This call for papers invites Early Career Researchers[1] (ECRs) to participate in an event sponsored by the British Sociological Association and the Centre for Employment Relations Innovation and Change (CERIC), University of Leeds.

Dramatic transformations in the world of work are generating increased debate (for example Taylor et al., 2017) on the nature of worker-employer relations. A central feature of the debate has been the deterioration in working conditions set alongside the decline of worker voice via institutionalised mechanisms of collective representation and bargaining. Yet, while researchers in the sociology of work and industrial relations have investigated the declining influence of trade union representation and the emergence of collective action beyond the workplace, less consideration has been given to how workers continue to try to represent their interests, either individually or collectively, at work and what this means for evolving relations between management and workers.  

New research is emerging, often based on qualitative workplace studies, investigating the detail of collective interest representation, documenting novel and unexpected forms of collective action and counter-mobilizations that shape worker-employer relations. Examples include the emergence of new forms of grievance expression (Kirk, 2018), informal domestic bargaining practices (Cutter, 2015; Joyce, 2016); collective action amongst low paid migrant workers (Alberti and Però, 2018) and the representation of interests by creative, freelance and platform workers (Antcliff, Saundry and Stuart, 2007; Umney and Kretsos, 2014; Wood, Lehdonvirta and Graham, 2018). This renewed empirical focus on workplace relations is to be welcomed, but brings a further challenge: a need to develop new theory and conceptual frameworks that help explain new forms of workplace social relations. 

Theorising worker-employer relations in the new world of work aims to explore these themes by examining how sociological insights focused predominantly on work can, along with other sociologically informed perspectives, help advance theoretical and empirical understanding of the worker-employer relationship. We welcome contributions from researchers working in employment relations, industrial relations, the sociology of work and industrial sociology, social movements and mobilisation, social capital, intersectionality, critical HRM, labour movements, labour migration, political sociology and related fields.

This event provides an opportunity for ECRs working in these fields to share their work with leading academics and other researchers investigating collective interest representation and documenting novel and unexpected forms of collective action that shape worker-employer relations.  The event will also explore the scope for collaboration to develop research agendas that could advance theoretical and empirical understanding in this area, to consider what, if anything, has emerged to replace formal bargaining institutions between workers and management and how this could be theorised.    

Confirmed keynote speakers:

Professor Miguel Martinez Lucio, University of Manchester

We invite contributors to present on the methodological, empirical and theoretical aspects of researching this area through consideration of topics such as:

What do we know about the everyday experiences of worker-management relations from the perspective of workers, worker representatives and front-line managers in the new world of work?

  • (How) can we construct (new) notions of the workplace social actors that help to better describe these relations?
  • What kinds of social relations exist between these actors?
  • How can we understand the changing nature of the worker-employer relationship through the integration of industrial relations theory with other sociologically informed perspectives?
  • What can we learn from comparative analysis (in temporal, geographic or other terms) that helps in this understanding?
  • What are the implications for policy and practice of state, worker or employer organisations, trade unions and activists?

We are seeking contributors for the following session types:

Session type 1:  Paper presentations: involving 6-8 presentations each lasting around 15 minutes with time for questions

Session type 2: Snapshot presentations: each lasting 3 minutes with the option to use pictures (no slides!), which will be followed by an open discussion. Whilst this session is open to anyone, we hope it will provide opportunity to those not ready to present full papers to engage in the conference, discuss their research and get feedback on their research ideas.

Please contact Jo Cutter ( or Simon Joyce ( for any queries relating to this event.

Abstract submission deadline is 7th March 2019

[1] up to seven years post-PHD