Employee Relations in the twenty-first century - Will it be Employee Engagement or a role for TUs?

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Venue: Room CG72, Westminster Business School, Marylebone Road, London (opposite Baker Street Station, and Mme Tussauds). Tea / coffee / biscuits available. Directions from Security.

Time: 6:15pm - 8:00pm including questions.

Cost: Free. All welcome! Especially PG students.

Speaker: Willy Coupar, Director - Bayswater Institute


  • Employee Relations continues to be a major theme in many workplaces across the UK. Despite the steady fall in trade union membership, and the reduction in the number of disputes, flashpoints such as the recent BA strike remind us that workplace conflict is still with us.
  • Unions continue to play a major role, especially in the public sector. The threat of thousands of job cuts in that sector will create an atmosphere of uncertainty and further conflict seems likely.

In the private sector the role of unions is now increasingly concentrated in a limited and declining number of industries. A clear north / south divide is emerging as well.
More employee relations issues, individual or collective  are being resolved by recourse to law. This is a major change which shows no sign of slowing down.  
Unlike the Thatcher government, the new administration shows few signs of having an ideologically driven agenda for the workplace. 

Instead employee engagement is being widely advocated as a breakthrough in how organisations are managed, a source of measureable competitive advantage for organisations,whilst taking staff along on a journey which promises to improve their lives at work.
Governments are strongly committed to the idea. A major report " The McLeod review" sets out key engagement principles and offers a list of practical steps and case studies. The new government has recommitted and asked for further work to be done on the topic.
At the same time a great deal of work is now being done in the research community to test how effective employee engagement actually is. Researchers are also seeking to validate the tools being used to measure engagement in practice. Both the research and practitioner communities are divided. Is Employee Engagement nothing more than “old wine in new bottles”. What does this mean for the future of employee relations and for the role of unions? How should researchers and practitioners interested in the field react? 

This seminar sets out to identify answers to some of these questions.

About the speaker

William Coupar became the Director of the Bayswater Institute in 2009. He was director of the IPA from 1997-2008 and led its Partnership Company initiative. In 1999 he was asked by government to chair the Partnership Fund. From 2000 - 2007 he was a member of the ACAS Council He was lead project manager for the UKWON consortium which delivering multi-million pound projects for the European Social Fund.

After university he joined the transport industry working with five companies before joining Chesterfield Transport as its managing director, where, in 1990, he led an employee buy out .

He has worked with many organisations helping them work through change management and workplace issues in a mentoring or analytical role. He has worked with the NHS, government agencies, in the voluntary sector and leading unions. At European level he has worked with EWCs, with the Commission and with social partners in Brussels.

To ensure a place, register as soon as possible with: coakese@westminster.ac.uk or craig.shepherd@nottingham.ac.uk