New Technology and Industrial Relations

presenters Simon Joyce and Mark Stuart (Leeds) talk about how new technology may be reshaping the world of work.

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The central argument of the paper is that contemporary industrial relations research has contributed very little to current debates about how new technology may be reshaping the world of work. Contemporary analysis of technological change tends to be split between economic estimates of the extent of likely job loss and more sociological studies of workers’ experiences of digital work and new forms of contracting. Where industrial relations scholars do look at technological change it tends to be in terms of worker resistance, especially in relation to platform labour, and challenges for unions and collective bargaining. Such research is clearly important, but we would argue that by confining attention to a relatively narrow research agenda industrial relations scholars are limiting the contribution that they can make. Our understanding of the contemporary impact of technology at work is missing the valuable insights that can be uncovered if we return to concerns of more historical industrial relations scholarship. Scanning the field of Industrial Relations over the last forty years or so, the paper offers a revised agenda for how the field can contribute to understanding contemporary dynamics in, at and beyond work.


Dr Simon Joyce is a Research Fellow in the Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change. His main research interest is in processes of change in employment relations: how changes in state policy, political economic conditions, employer strategy, and management systems affect the everyday experience of work, and how responses to those changes from the people affected by them in turn generate resistances and reshaping of management approaches. He is currently researching platform work and the gig economy.

Professor Mark Stuart is the Founding Director of CERIC, Montague Burton Professor of Human Resource Management and Employment Relations, Leeds University Business School Pro Dean for Research. He has  published more than 150 monographs, articles, chapters and reports in the field of employment relations and has attracted more than £10 million of external research income. His current interests focus on Digital innovation and the future of work, and, from 2020, he will co-direct, in collaboration with the University of Sussex, a new research centre Digital Futures at Work (Digit), funded by a £8 million grant from the ESRC. A Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, Mark is past President of the British Universities Industrial Relations Association (BUIRA), past Editor-in-Chief of Work, Employment and Society and past Chair of the International Section of the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA). He is a sub panel 17 member for the 2021 Research Excellence Framework exercise, and editorial board member for Human Resource Management Journal and Labour and Industry. He has held visiting positions in Australia (Sydney, Monash, Griffith), America (Cornell), Sweden (NIWL) and France (Toulouse).

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