This presentation draws on the argument made in a recent book (Simms 2019) reflecting on the future of work to argue that collective labour market regulation is essential to mitigate growing public anxiety in the UK and beyond about future work scenarios.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought new anxieties, but the challenges of building equitable work futures remains. The argument that collective regulation is needed to address these challenges is generally well received by those involved in work and employment (Taylor 2017), as well as research on inequality (Brewer 2019), there remain profound arguments about how institutions of collective labour market regulation can, in practice, be rebuilt. To achieve any rebuilding of collective regulation, it is clear that all three employment relations actors (the State, employers and unions) will need to be engaged. This presentation therefore draws on three streams of research undertaken by the author and engaging each of the three collective actors. I reflect on the challenges facing each of these actors and what scope there is to rebuild collective dialogue and institutions. Specifically, the presentation draws on more than 20 years research experience examining union renewal strategies (Simms et al 2013), as well as recent research to understand employer engagement with public policy (Simms 2017), and current research project for the Scottish Parliament exploring opportunities to build social dialogue between employers and unions. Although the research streams are at different stages of development, they nonetheless build on each other to offer a way to understand not just the challenges ahead, but also the options that might available in building sustainable work futures.