Edited by Adrian Wilkinson, Jimmy Donaghey, Tony Dundon and Richard B. Freeman
From its infancy as a discipline, industrial relations scholarship has been founded on the core proposition that conflict and fundamental divergences of interests stand at the heart of the employment relationship (Lewin 2001; Godard and Delaney 2000; Barbash 1984; Commons 1935; Webb and Webb 1897). These inherent conflicts give rise to the need for institutional actors, such as unions and governments, who can mitigate potential negative consequences for employees (Commons 1935; see also Lewin 2001). As such, industrial relations scholarship has developed an acute sensitivity over the past century to the divergence of interests and the tensions that are inextricably linked to labor and employment dynamics in the workplace (see, for example, Barbash 1984; for a discussion, see Lewin 2001; Godard and Delaney 2000). Industrial relations has set itself apart from other disciplines by, among other things, identifying and exposing the implications associated with this foundational assumption about conflict and its central role in organizations (Barbash 1984). This lens, applied to the study of the workplace, has highlighted the adversarial dimensions inherent in the employment relationship and obscured much of the potential for partnership and collaboration between these actors (Walton and McKersie 1965). A second major theme inherent in the study of industrial relations, which is inextricably linked to the dominant focus on conflicts between actors, is the centrality of employee voice as an essential workplace mechanism with the potential to positively contribute to both employee and employer outcomes.
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