Ilera Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 20-22 June 2013: Imagining new employment relations and new solidarities.


Track 1: Industrial relations actors in a changing labour market


  • Maarten Keune (Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies, University of Amsterdam), 
  • Paul Marginson (Industrial Relations Research Unit, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick)

Changes that have taken place in the economy and labour market in recent decades challenge traditional industrial relations structures and practices. Major changes include the increasing transnationalisation of economic activity; ongoing decentralisation of collective bargaining; increasing flexibilisation of the labour market; growing migration flows; the appearance of new forms of employment and flexible employment relationships; differentiation between insiders and outsiders; growing female participation; and a growing importance of EU level economic and social policies. Also, the present economic, social and financial crisis has accelerated processes of change and increased pressure on industrial relations systems. In this stream the focus will be on the way employers’ associations, trade unions, social movements and other collective actors representing workers or employers are dealing with the challenges deriving from these changes. Major questions include:

  • What transnational structures and activities are employers’ organisations and trade unions developing and with what effect?
  • To what extent do employers’ organisations and trade union bridge the divide between insiders and outsiders on the labour market?
  • How are precarious or marginal jobs dealt with within industrial relations? 
  • Are trade unions managing to represent them?
  • Are employers’ organisations making efforts to reduce these types of employment? 
  • What efforts do trade unions make to represent migrant workers?
  • What types of local, national and transnational strategies do they pursue?
  • What are the developments in European social dialogue and how is this linking with national and local level industrial relations practices?

Track 2: Europeanisation of social and employment policies


  • Sonja Bekker (Tilburg University, ReflecT)
  • Ton Wilthagen (Tilburg University, ReflecT)
  • Jonathan Zeitlin (University of Amsterdam)

Over the past two decades, the EU has been the driver of new policy approaches such as flexicurity and activating social security and is now making a case for ‘new skills for new jobs’ and ‘youth on the move’. However, it has not only provided input for the content of policies. It also tries to build and improve its methods of coordinating and monitoring Member States’ activities. The economic crisis and the failure of the Lisbon Strategy to reach all of its goals have resulted in a renewed effort to strengthen its procedures for socio-economic governance, including the socalled ‘Open Method of Coordination’ (OMC). It has done so by combining economic, social, and employment policy coordination in a European Semester, in which Member States simultaneously draw up national programmes to meet the requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact and the Europe 2020 Strategy. This not only results in a further integration of economic, social and employment policies. It also creates new opportunities for the Commission and the Council to ‘sanction’ Member States via the Excessive Deficit and Imbalances Procedures. Additional tools such as the Euro Plus competitiveness pact further expand the width and depth of European coordination. Following such shifts, the EU institutions are increasingly addressing policy issues which previously belonged to the autonomous prerogatives of Member States and national social partners, such as wage-setting mechanisms and pensions.

Beyond these overarching strategies and coordination processes, the EU has developed a wide range of governance instruments for influencing national social and employment policies, from legislation and social dialogue agreements to the structural funds, community action programmes, and support for transnational networks. Through a series of landmark judgments, the European Courts have challenged the territorial boundedness of national welfare states and employment systems, creating new cross-border rights of mobility and access, while imposing new obligations on tradeunion action to respect the ‘four freedoms’ of the internal market. The governance method of the EU and the content of its policies has provoked ongoing academic and political debates. We invite papers that address questions such as:

  • How has the EU affected welfare and employment regimes in the Member States?
  • Are there signs of a Europeanisation of social and employment policies?
  • What effects have EU mega strategies and the OMC had in the Member States?
  • Have there been identifiable influences on national policy-making, and if so, through what mechanisms?
  • What is the relation between the OMC and legislation?
  • What has been the impact of EU economic governance on social and employment policies?
  • Does the Europe 2020 Strategy represent a more balanced approach?
  • What has the EU contributed to the development of new approaches to social and employment policies?
  • What is their value to labour market studies and industrial relations?

Track 3: Public sector restructuring: consequences for employment relations and public services


  • Peter Leisink (University of Utrecht)
  • Bram Steijn (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
  • Stephen Bach (King’s College London)
  • Ian Kessler (Oxford University)

Following the economic recession governments all over Europe have initiated drastic budget cuts and reform plans with a view to reducing the public debt. These governmental policies have severe consequences for employment relations and employment conditions of public sector workers and at the same time they raise concerns about the future of public services. These interconnected issues will be the core interest of this stream. Generally the goal of governmental policy is to reduce the public budget contribution by making public services more efficient, which impacts on the levels of employment, pay levels, pension schemes and employment relations of public sector workers. A related element of public policies is to raise the level of private contributions of citizen-consumers for education, healthcare and social services. These policies have negative consequences for public service provision. In view of the consequences of these policies the question stands out generally what trade unions and social dialogue institutions have undertaken to influence these policies. More specifically the major questions in this stream include:

  • How have employment conditions in the public sector changed as a consequence of budget cuts and reforms? How have employment relations at shop-floor level been affected?
  • What are the consequences for the quality and accessibility of public services in the future? What practices are emerging as regards the issue of public services as a citizen right?
  • How have trade unions addressed this issue and the quality of public services?
  • Have trade unions and works councils been able to influence government policies and their consequences?
  • Have public employers and managers adopted policies to defend essential public services and have trade unions and works councils been able to build coalitions?

Track 4: New forms of regulation and governance


  • Nicolette van Gestel (Tilburg University)
  • Saskia Klosse (University of Maastricht)
  • Stijn Smismans (University of Cardiff)

During the last two decades, national welfare states have decentralized and/or privatized employment policies and social security arrangements. Other actors have gained importance in regulating employment relations at multiple levels of governance: the European Union, local/regional networks, private organizations, and publicprivate arrangements. For example, the decentralization of national responsibilities for absence management and health prevention to local actors in and around the workplace; or, the co-governance of public and private partners in (regional) networks for active ageing, preventing unemployment and improving employability. These new forms of regulation and governance create new opportunities to solve labor market problems. Yet, their effectiveness cannot be taken for granted. Moreover, they also raise the fundamental question about who is responsible for social rights and social security? In this track, we welcome papers that analyze, for example:

  • What exactly do we understand as new forms of regulation and governance in social and welfare policies?
  • Welfare policies and industrial relations have since long experimented with policy tools and public-private interactions. Which instruments can we identify as ‘new’?
  • Do we witness an increased use of new instruments?
  • Do they have common characteristics, do they address similar problems?
  • New regulation in the social arena seems to favour ‘soft’ over ‘hard’ forms of legislation and rule-making. Which of the two, soft law or hard law, is apt to secure the (full) realisation of social rights?
  • How can both forms of regulation contribute to improving the connection between social rights (e.g. the right to work, the right to education etc.) and the labour market?
  • Are vague hard law norms to be preferred over soft law regulation achieving a ‘hard’ effect in the long term, or vice versa? How can one guarantee that soft law measures ensure equality and rule of law in a way hard law measures are supposed to do?
  • How do new forms of governance relate to democratic decisionmaking?
  • Who is accountable for public-private governance arrangements?
  • What is the role of trade unions in the new modes of governance and regulation, and which opportunities and/or problems arise for employees’ voice in organizations?

Track 5: HRM and Social Innovation


  • Jan Kees Looise (School of Management and Governance, University of Twente)
  • Erik Poutsma (Institute for Management Research, Radboud University Nijmegen)
  • Stefan Zagelmeyer (International University of Applied Sciences Bad Honnef-Bonn and School of Management and Governance, University of Twente)

The logic of producing goods and services has undergone significant change as a result of forces such as globalization and advancements in technology. These changes cut across all nations, industries, organizations and workplaces. These changes in how goods and services are produced and delivered have resulted in large-scale changes in how skills required are procured, developed and managed. Globalization adds another dimension to these changes. At the same time, social innovation in terms of new ways of organizing, high performance work systems and new ways of employee involvement can serve as capabilities for improved economic and social performance. In addition, the development of social innovation and the pursue of social performance may involve new roles of industrial relations actors in the development of technological and social innovations on different levels, sectoral, regional and organizational levels. In this stream we welcome contributions that focus on the interplay of innovation, employment relations and human resource management practices; from training to worker involvement to work organization. We also welcome contributions that focus on diverse outcomes and on the changing roles of actors. Major questions include:

  • What are the implications of new technologies for social innovations?
  • Which social innovations are developed and what are the impacts on workers and employment relationships?
  • What are the implications of globalization for social innovations and employment relationships and how do these impact on workers?
  • Which social innovations work more effectively in certain contexts?
  • What facilitates the interplay of innovation, employment relations and human resource practices on different levels?
  • What are the diverse outcomes of social innovations?


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