Research Handbook on the Future of Work and Employment Relations
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Research Handbook on the Future of Work and Employment Relations

Edited by Keith Townsend and Adrian Wilkinson

The broad field of employment relations is diverse and complex and is under constant development and reinvention. This Research Handbook discusses fundamental theories and approaches to work and employment relations, and their connection to broader political and societal changes occurring throughout the world. It provides comprehensive coverage of work and employment relations theory and practice.
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Chapter 7: New and Emerging Actors in Work and Employment Relations: The Case of Civil Society Organizations

Steve Williams, Brian Abbott and Edmund Heery


Steve Williams, Brian Abbott and Edmund Heery INTRODUCTION One of the most prominent features of recent scholarship in the field of work and employment relations concerns the increasing amount of attention being given to so-called new and emerging actors. For many years, John Dunlop’s systems approach exercised a profound influence over the nature and development of employment relations as a field of study. Famously, he proposed that every employment relations ‘system involves three groups of actors: (1) workers and their organizations, (2) managers and their organizations, and (3) governmental agencies concerned with the work place and the work community’ (Dunlop, 1958, p. viii). While, on the one hand, Dunlop’s model is recognized as being broad enough to accommodate a potentially wide range of actors who are involved with the regulation of employment relationships (Heery and Frege, 2006), on the other hand, the focus of employment relations as a field of study became dominated by a specific emphasis on studying the collective relationship between employers and unions (Heery and Frege, 2006; Kaufman, 2004). The diminishing reach of trade unions and collective bargaining raises some important questions about the future of employment relations as a discrete field of study (e.g. Ackers and Wilkinson, 2005; Kaufman, 2004; Piore and Safford, 2006). Yet a key way in which employment relations can be revitalized, and its relevance asserted, is by recognizing the role and activities of a more diverse range of actors and interests (Michelson, 2008). Drawing on the existing international literature, and in places...

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