The Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing’s Director Professor Adrian Wilkinson has just released A very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about employment relations, a new book that he co-wrote with colleagues Tony Dundon (University of Manchester) and Niall Cullihane (Queens, Belfast), but it is not like any of his publications before.
“This is meant to be a short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book,” Professor Wilkinson said.
“In my career, I’ve written lots of very long, fairly boring, if the sale figures are anything to go by, and quite expensive books so this is definitely a change.”
The book, as part of the ‘Very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap series’ features informal conversation, accessible yet sophisticated and critical overviews on various academic topics.
In A very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about employment relations, Professor Wilkinson explains how central employment relations is to our contemporary experiences of life and even if you make even the most limited of efforts to keep abreast of current affairs, it is difficult to avoid the subject.
“Ultimately whether you a manager at Rio Tinto, a worker at Hungry Jacks, a civil servant or a manufacturing worker threatened by robots replacing your job in the future, then you are most likely in an employment relationship,” Wilkinson said.
Employment relationship, in legal terms, is captured by an employment contract or a contract of service, wherein an employee works for someone else. According to Professor Wilkinson, this is not as necessarily straightforward as it might first sound.
“The British Court of Appeal established that vicars cannot claim unfair dismissal even if their Church sacks them without good cause,” Wilkinson said.
“Apparently, they work for ‘God’. While even the seemingly ‘obvious’ assumption that someone with an employment contract will get paid for the work they do in exchange for their labour is not necessarily to be taken for granted in these times as the 7/11 cases shows.
“For most of us, working under an employment contract is, or will be, the dominant feature of our lives, assuming we are fortunate to avoid the scourge of unemployment or we do not opt-out to become self-sufficient sheep farmers in the Scottish Shetland Islands or the Australian outback.”
According to Professor Wilkinson, a person’s employment relationship and their experience of it will structure most of their waking life and even affect your wider ‘life chances’.
“Your employment relation will determine whether working long hours in your job go by unnoticed, because you love what you do or whether most of your life is spent counting down to a shift’s end,” Wilkinson said.
“Employment relations matters also from the point of view of employers, who need to have the ‘right’ kind of labour at the ‘right’ time to remain competitive. It also matters for society as arising from the dynamics of employment relationships at work is the subsequent production and distribution of social wealth and income in our society.
“It is no exaggeration to say that what happens in employment influences everything from the prices you pay in the shops, the level of unemployment in your community, social class advantage and disadvantage to the outcome of political elections. “
The topic of employment relations is one that Professor Wilkinson says extends beyond an academic setting and affects almost everyone.
“Unless they have inherited a lot of money or win the lottery, unfortunately, we all have to work,” Wilkinson said.
“The idea of the book is it should be interesting to anyone involved in employment relations, and we tried to make it reflect our own experiences over the year, so there are lots of examples from our own research.
“We tried to make it more chatty and less of an academic style. Our taste in music and jokes is here but these it must be said got very bad reviews.”
Untimely Professor Wilkinson hopes the publication will help reach out to a broader audience and generate interest in the topic.
“I think people like the idea that researchers in the field write these books, but they are trying to reach a larger audience and they’re trying not to bog down too much in the minutia, and talk about the broader issues that should concern us all.”
A very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about employment relations is available now wherever books are sold.