Isaac Industrial Relations symposium

Isaac Industrial Relations symposium

Venue:      University of Melbourne

Date:         Thursday, September 7th, 2023.

Details:     The speaker is Professor Martin Behrens from Germany.

Registration (free) is now open and spaces are limited – see the registration link below


The ties that (don’t) bind: Complementary institutions within Germany’s ‘dual system’ of Industrial relations

German industrial relations (IR) have long been considered exemplary for successfully combining economic competitiveness with elements of social justice and high levels of worker participation. This model of IR is underpinned by the so-called ‘dual system’ of labour representation, which combines multi-employer collective bargaining at the industry level with workers participation at the establishment level through works councils. While collective bargaining is the responsibility of unions and employers’ associations, works councils represent a ‘quasi-public institution’ as they are elected by the entire workforce irrespective of union membership.

In this presentation Dr. Martin Behrens investigates two seemingly contradictory trends in German IR: On the one hand coverage by major institutions such as collective bargaining and works councils has declined since the early 1990s, on the other hand employers have relied heavily on these representative institutions at times of severe crisis, including the global financial crisis (2008) and the Covid-19 pandemic (2020-22). These developments raise important questions about the state and future of IR ‘made in Germany’: What is driving the institutional decline in collective bargaining and workers’ voice in Germany? What explains employer ambivalence to worker representation? What are possible strategies for stabilizing and revitalizing Germany’s IR institutions?

Dr. Martin Behrens Bio

Dr. Martin Behrens is senior researcher at the Institute for Economic and Social Research (WSI) of the Hans-Boeckler-Foundation, Germany. He also teachers Sociology at the Heinrich-Heine-University in Düsseldorf and currently serves as the deputy president of the Works Council at the Hans-Böckler-Foundation.

Dr. Behrens was educated at the University of Göttingen (Master’s) and at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University (Ph. D.). He was awarded his habilitation (postdoctoral professorial qualification) by the University of Göttingen in 2010. Between 2011 and 2020, he was Co-editor of Industrielle Beziehungen, The German Journal of Industrial Relations, and served as a member of the executive committee of the International Labour and Employment Relations Association from 2015-21.

He has published widely in leading international journals in work, HRM, and industrial relations, including British Journal of Industrial Relations, ILR Review, Industrial Relations, Socio-Economic Review, Comparative European Politics and the Human Resource Management Journal.

Current research interests include employee voice, trade union strategies, employers’ associations, and conflict management at the workplace.

Background: The Joe Isaac Industrial Relations Symposium

The Joe Isaac Symposium was developed jointly by the Department of Management and Marketing at the University of Melbourne, and Monash Business School, Monash University, to recognise and highlight the outstanding contribution to industrial relations by Professor Emeritus Joe Isaac, AO, FASSA. He was one of Australia’s most distinguished scholars and practitioners in the broad field of workplace relations.

The Symposium will be delivered in-person. Please join us for pre-presentation drinks from 5.30pm to 6.30pm. The presentation will commence at 6.30pm.

Numbers are limited, please cancel your booking if you are no longer able to attend.

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