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Industrial Relations in Europe Conference (IREC) 2023

Durham Riverside with Framwellgate Bridge

The Role of Industrial Relations after Turning Points in History

It is often heard in academic, political and public debates that Europe is at a turning point in history that has ended previous decades of economic growth, (relative) stability and (social) peace. Although the past decades were certainly challenging as Europe witnessed increasing inequality and precarity of work and labour, in which industrial relations was deregulated and changed its role from being a key actor and driver of economic and social life towards the role of a bystander and spectator.

There is no doubt that Europe is currently facing a number of different crises that changed or even shattered its economy and society dramatically in recent years that have implications for the role of industrial relations. In fact, “classical” industrial relations topics and phenomena including large scale industrial conflicts such as in particular strikes (re-)erupted, as well as “core” industrial relations activities such as collective wage bargaining in order to tackle skyrocketing inflation rates became essential for public policy makers. In this sense, it appears that a new era has started that might reverse the role of industrial relations again.

However, while not only the key role industrial relations had in the past is new, this situation of high economic and social instability and turmoil which has not been seen for many decades is unprecedented. In fact, the 1970s were also characterized by similar problems and challenges for economies and societies. More specifically, in the 1970s the industrialized world was also challenged by high inflation, an energy crisis, increasing unemployment, a turbulent and uncertain political environment, and substantial strike action. From this perspective, the turning point Europe is currently experiencing can be interpreted as a leap in time that brings us back to the 1970s in which industrial relations experienced its heyday as being a central part of social and economic life and potentially also as an academic field of study. Hence the current turning point could bring industrial relations back into the limelight of academic and policy debates.

At the IREC 2023 we would like to discuss the consequences the current turning point in history has for industrial relations both as an academic field of study as well as for the economy and society in Europe (and beyond). We encourage critical and novel contributions which shed light on the wide research area and question that is expressed in the conference theme, i.e. on the role of industrial relations after turning points in history.

The idea of the IREC 2023 is also to continue important previous discussions on all industrial relations areas as well. Therefore, we also invite contributions focusing on all aspects and dimension industrial relations as well as on all related aspects of working life and employment. In the tradition of IREC and to be able to continue discussions from previous conferences, papers with a comparative/comparable or international dimension are especially welcomed. With this in mind, the main topical clusters of the IREC 2023 are:

  • Turning points in history and in industrial relations
  • European institutions and perspectives on work, employment and industrial relations
  • Local, sectoral, national, and European labour market institutions and processes in flux: change and resilience
  • Trade union organising and mobilisation in changing times and context
  • Industrial relations and the welfare state
  • Industrial relations and minimum wage
  • The role of employers and business organisations
  • Migration and the implications for the world of work, employment and industrial relations
  • The role of environmental and climate change on industrial relations
  • Labour market segregation: differences and inequalities between different groups
  • Industrial relations in the public sector
  • Trends and effects of collective bargaining
  • The impact and consequences of (de-)globalization on the world of employment and work
  • Worker participation, industrial democracy and labour relations at the workplace level
  • The gig economy, platform work, new technologies and industrial relations
  • New and old forms of industrial conflicts and alternative form of the representation of collective interests
  • The theoretical and methodological challenges in the field of work, employment and industrial relations

Provocative, innovative and critical answers to the challenges we are facing nowadays are welcome in order to stimulate new, controversial and alternative ideas. We expect to receive theoretical and empirical (both qualitative and quantitative) papers.

To secure your spot at IREC 2023, please visit our booking page here. If you have any technical or other issues in registering and paying for IREC 2023, please contact the Conference Administrator Rosalind Porter at