This book contains a unique collection of chapters written by ten past-presidents of the International Labour and Employment Relations Association (ILERA). The initiator of the book is Professor Dong-One Kim, immediate past-president of ILERA. The celebration of the 50th anniversary of ILERA forms an important background to the book. Furthermore, the past-presidents presented and discussed their chapters during a special Anniversary Plenary Session at the 18th ILERA World Congress, hosted by Kim and held in Seoul in July 2018. The main theme of the World Congress was “Employment for a Sustainable Society: What is to be Done?”
The past-presidents, from different parts of the world, are all distinguished and leading researchers and experts in our field. Their work has not only contributed greatly to and inspired new scholarship, but it has also had important implications for policy and practice in the areas of employment relations, labour law and human resource management at national, regional and international levels.
In their chapters, the past-presidents reflect on the past, present and future of ILERA and the field of labour and employment relations, and highlight both potentials and challenges.
ILERA was founded in 1966 as the International Industrial Relations Association (IIRA). According to its Articles of Organization, its general purpose is to promote the study of labour and employment relations throughout the world, by such means as encouraging the establishment of national associations; facilitating the publication and spread of information about significant developments in research and education; and, organizing international and regional congresses.1 In 2009, the first female ILERA President, Professor Janice Bellace, took office, serving as an important pioneer and role model. After a long and inclusive process of dialogue, the association changed its name to ILERA in 2010. The name change reflects a recognition of the broadening of the scope of the association and the field of research to fully include, for example, developing countries; labour and all those who work (in paid employment, self-employment, informal work or the care economy etc.); and a multitude of different topical issues, such as the transnational movement of labour; non-standard work; labour market regulation; trade and labour standards; and discrimination in employment.2
From the very beginning, ILERA has collaborated closely and fruitfully with the International Labour Organization (ILO). The International Institute of Labour Studies was one of the founding institutions of ILERA. An ILO-official serves as the Secretary-General of ILERA, and the ILERA Secretariat is based at the ILO in Geneva and provides invaluable support to the association. In 2018, at the 18th World Congress in Seoul a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between ILERA and the ILO was signed and celebrated. The MoU aims at enhancing collaboration between the parties in different ways.
The second section provides, by reasons of space, only a brief presentation of the authors and the content of their chapters, in the chronological order of their presidency. The third section presents some common themes and reflections on the future outlook.
Friedrich Furstenberg from Germany was President between 1983 and 1986. In his chapter, “My Experience with the IIRA (ILERA),” he discusses the traditional and future focus of ILERA and labour and employment relations, and highlights, for example, the importance of paying attention to changes in the labour force; labour market structures and processes; employment policies; interest representation in the labour market; contents and structure of negotiations; and, the key role played by the notion of decent work. Furstenberg also presents his important initiative to establish “Study Groups.” The Study Groups ? active also in between world and regional congresses ? have developed into global networks of labour and employment relations scholars, resulting in numerous research projects and publications.
John Niland from Australia was President between 1989 and 1992. In his chapter, “Times of Change and Deep Transformation: IIRA 9th World Congress, Sydney 1992,” he revisits the themes, papers and experiences from the World Congress in Sydney, and reflects on past and current trends of change and deep transformation, both in relation to our field of research and in relation to the realities of the world of work and labour and employment relations. He illustrates how the fate of trade unionism; the future of industrial relations as a field of study; and, the threat ? or opportunity ? posed by the rise of human resource management were key trends discussed at the World Congress. These trends are also discussed in relation to the development of Australian labour and employment relations.
Thomas A. Kochan from the US was president between 1992 and 1995. In his chapter, “Challenges and Opportunities Facing ILERA and our Field,” he reflects on the legacy of ILERA and explores ways to advance the field of labour and employment relations in the years ahead. He addresses a number of key aspects, such as the composition and notion of the workforce and the worker; the trend from labour market dualism to fissurization of employment; the future of work and technological development; globalization; worker voice, social dialogue and bargaining power; rethinking management roles and norms; and a move toward a new social contract. One conclusion is that ILERA and labour and employment relations scholars have a lot to offer ? and a lot to do ? if we are to improve the world of work for generations to come.
Tiziano Treu from Italy was President between 1995 and 1998. In his chapter, “Employment for a Sustainable Society: What is to be Done?,” he uses the EU and European developments and experiences as an example to discuss the speed of change and the depth of the challenges that labour law and employment relations, and our field of study, are facing today. He emphasizes the need for comparative research, and explores issues, such as the European policy of flexicurity; the impact of the digital revolution on the future of work; new risks for health and safety and for personal privacy; the impact of change on labour unions and collective agreements; decentralization of collective bargaining; and global trade and fundamental rights.
Tadashi Hanami from Japan was President between 1998?2000. In his chapter, “The West and the East in Industrial Relations and Labour Law,” he discusses the importance of globalization and trends of convergence and divergence. He argues for the need to include perspectives from all parts of the world (East and West; North and South; and Developed and Developing) in the work of ILERA and the field of labour and employment relations. He also points to current trends toward populism and post-orientalism.
Manfred Weiss from Germany was President between 2000?2003. In his chapter, “Challenges for Labour Law and Industrial Relations,” his focus is on two key challenges to labour law and industrial relations today, namely, the deficiencies of international labour regulation and the digitalization of work. His aim is not to present possible solutions, but rather to identify challenges and the future activities of ILERA. Weiss discusses the problem of enforcing international labour standards and the role of private actors and global supply chains in this context. Furthermore, he highlights different forms of digital work and the need to address a number of issues, such as the scope of labour law; training; working time and health and safety and working; privacy and collective representation.
Russell Lansbury from Australia was President between 2006?2009. In his chapter, “The International Labour and Employment Relations Association (ILERA) at Fifty: the Journey So Far and the Way Ahead,” he provides a historical account and analysis of the evolution of ILERA through its phases of formative development, consolidation and maturation and reorientation and revitalization. He argues for the need to maintain a multidisciplinary approach to issues of work and the employment relationship and to connect the micro-level issues at the workplace level with macro-level issues in society and the economy, and identifies the role, which ILERA might play in this context.
Janice Bellace, from the US, was president ? the first female president ? between 2009 and 2012. In her chapter, “ILERA: Building on Tradition and Values in Responding to the Challenges of the Information Age,” she reflects on ILERA as a sustainable and growing association, and aspects, such as the character and language traditions of ILERA; the name change; and the expansion of ILERA’s global membership. On the issue of renewal, she argues that if ILERA holds true to its traditions, mission and global reach, younger scholars and practitioners will see its value and inject new vitality into its work. Furthermore, she discusses some of the challenges related to globalization and the information age and the digital economy.
Evance Kalula from South Africa was President between 2012 and 2015. In his chapter, “ILERA and the Future of Work: Challenges and Opportunities in the Quest for Universal Decent Work and Social Solidarity,” he explores a number of challenges and opportunities, such as labour market regulation; social protection; unemployment; and migration, and uses Africa as a proxy of global concerns. He also discusses future measures to strengthen ILERA, and emphasizes, for example, the importance of including younger scholars and professionals; developing networks and collaboration; strengthening the ILO partnership; and extending ILERA’s global membership.
Dong-One Kim from the Republic of Korea was President between 2015 and 2018. The starting point of his concluding chapter, “Conclusion: Exploring Strategies for Labour and Employment Relations as an Academic Field,” is the debate on the turmoil and relevance of the field of labour and employment relations, given decreasing union density and collective bargaining coverage in many countries. He examines, through a study of abstracts in major labour and employment relations journals in the period between 1947 and 2014, how researchers in the field have responded to and discussed strategic options and future implications for the field. The study implies that the field has evolved, but maintained its core (i.e. union-related topics). New phenomena and realities have been embraced, and the field orientation has shifted from economics to management; from state to market; and from collective labour to individual employees. Kim concludes by arguing for the expansion and revitalization of the field of labour and employment relations, and for the incorporation of emerging trends, such as the gig-economy; AI and the Fourth Industrial Revolution; emerging alternative representative bodies; and new forms of labour disputes.
Concluding Remarks and a Future Outlook
The past-presidents’ chapters offer rich and multifaceted perspectives on the development of ILERA and the field of labour and employment relations, as well as inspiring ideas on the future direction. One common theme is the need to creatively, critically and constructively engage with the profound change and transformation that affects both the world of work and labour markets and our field of research. Another common theme is a great commitment to ILERA and a belief in the association’s resilience, multitude and innovation.
In moving forward, we are able to build on ILERA’s traditions, strengths and dynamics, and in this context, I believe three aspects are worth highlighting, namely, societal challenges and policy development; internationalization and inclusion; and, interdisciplinary collaboration.
ILERA ? and research and higher education in the evolving field of labour and employment relations ? has a key role to play in addressing global societal challenges, such as sustainable development; employment and decent work; poverty and inequality; aging populations and intergenerational tension; technological change, digitalization and AI; migration, and, climate change. Here, ILERA benefits from its tradition of bringing together scholars, social partners, practitioners, governments and policy makers, and from its long-standing and close collaboration with the ILO.
ILERA is by nature and ideology global and international. Research, and the work and engagement of scholars, is guided by global academic values, such as academic freedom, openness, inclusion, transparency, collegiality and curiosity. It is important to continue to extend the global reach and relevance of ILERA, to welcome new members into our community and to further comparative perspectives.
It is also crucial, from the perspective of legitimacy and high quality, to promote gender equality and diversity within ILERA, at all levels and activities. Furthermore, along the lines of inclusion, ILERA can serve as a vital platform for exchange and collaboration between scholars at different stages of their careers, and assist in mentoring early career researchers and highlighting their contributions.
There is an increasing awareness, by universities, governments and international organizations, of the need for interdisciplinary research, both when it comes to making ground-breaking discoveries and to successfully addressing societal challenges. ILERA ? and the field of labour and employment relations ? is already one-step ahead, as it has always crossed disciplinary boundaries, and facilitated a multifaceted study of the world of work. ILERA ? and the world and regional congresses ? can contribute to dynamic innovation in theories, methodologies and data collection in our field, and further stimulate the exploration of intersections between the field of labour and employment relations and other disciplinary fields.
In conclusion, as the current President of ILERA I am happy, honored and humble to follow in the footsteps of these past-presidents, and to host the next, 19th, ILERA World Congress in Lund in Sweden, on June 21?24, 2021 on the theme of “Making and Breaking Boundaries in Work and Employment Relations.”
1 On the history of ILERA, see Kaufman, B.E. (2004) The Global Evolution of Industrial Relations. Events, Ideas and the IIRA, International Labour Office.
2 See the ILERA website https://www.ilo.org/public/english/iira/index.htm.
Kaufman, B.E. (2004) The Global Evolution of Industrial Relations. Events, Ideas and the IIRA, International Labour Office. 접기
Dong-One . Kim
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This is a provocative collection of chapters by a number of the former presidents of the International Labour and Employment Relations Association (ILERA). The essays discuss how the field of industrial relations is evolving and the implications for ILERA. The contributors are all leading scholars so their views carry deserved weight beyond that due from their ILERA administrative service.
It is striking how similar are the views of the former presidents even though they reside in a wide range of countries and their academic sub-fields differ across labour relations, economics, and the law. All the chapters note similar far-reaching changes in the nature of work, many induced by alterations in technology, such as the rise of computer-mediated “platform” work, and pressures from globalization, leading to an increasing importance of labour rights and global supply chains.
The former ILERA presidents urge academics to adjust their research to focus more extensively on those trends while maintaining allegiance to the perspective and values that originally motivated the field of industrial relations. To do that research will necessarily be multidisciplinary and make use of a variety of methodologies. The former presidents recognize that the coverage of collective bargaining and union representation has declined substantially, and continues to decline in nearly all countries. Nonetheless, the field of industrial relations continues to provide important insights into the changing nature of work including how those changers affect workers and the workers’ responses. The continuing relevance of industrial relation springs from the fact that conflict at the workplace and higher levels has not abetted and in fact, there are signs of the spread of new forms of collective representation including affinity groups and wildcat protests.
There is a common trend toward income inequality across developed and developing economies. And while there is room for debate regarding the degree to which union decline has contributed to that inequality, there is wide recognition of contention at workplace and broader social levels regarding the distribution of economic progress and the extent of employee voice in economic decisions. On these issues and so many others, the former ILERA presidents demonstrate that industrial relations has much to say.