Professor Tony Dobbins

Professor Tony Dobbins

Department of Management
Professor of Work and Employment Relations

Contact details

Address
Room G133, University House
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B15 2TT
UK

Tony is Professor of Work and Employment Relations at Birmingham Business School. He is part of the Organisation, Work and Employment (OWE) group in the Department of Management. He joined Birmingham Business School in May 2018, from Bangor University. Tony has over twenty years of employment relations experience as an academic, researcher, and journalist in the UK and Republic of Ireland, including eight years working for Industrial Relations News, Dublin. He has various research interests in the area of work and employment.

Regarding wider international esteem, Tony has been a Parliamentary Academic Fellow in the UK Parliament (2021-2022), President of the British Universities Industrial Relations Association (BUIRA) (2019-2022. He is also a Visiting Professor at the Department of Work and Employment Relations, Kemmy Business School University of Limerick in Ireland, and Visiting Professor at the Centre for Labour Studies, University of Malta.

Qualifications

  • PhD Industrial Relations, University of Limerick, Ireland.
  • MA Industrial Relations, University of Warwick.
  • BA HRM & Business Administration, Keele University.
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education (PGCertHE), Bangor University.

Biography

Professor/Chair of Work and Employment Relations, and Director of Research in the Department of Management. Tony is part of the Organisation, Work and Employment (OWE) group, and the employment relations, trade unions and employee voice research stream. He also leads the Inclusive Labour Governance and Employee Voice research stream in the Work Inclusivity Research Centre (WIRC). Tony joined Birmingham Business School in May 2018, from Bangor University, where he was Professor of Employment Studies.

Regarding wider national and international esteem, Tony is Visiting Professor at the Centre for Labour Studies, University of Malta, and Visiting Professor at the Department of Work and Employment Relations, Kemmy Business School University of Limerick in the Republic of Ireland. He is an external expert advisor for the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound).

Tony was appointed as a Parliamentary Academic Fellow in the UK Parliament (2021-2022), writing research briefings on good work and flexible working. He is also a former President of the British Universities Industrial Relations Association (BUIRA) (2019-2022), the main UK professional association for employment relations academics. He has been a Member of Council of the International Labor and Employment Relations Association (ILERA), the main global association for employment relations academics. In addition, he has been on the Associate and Editorial Board (2014-2019) of Work, Employment & Society.

More generally, Tony has twenty-five years’ employment relations and HR experience as an academic, researcher, and journalist in the UK and Republic of Ireland. He was formerly an Irish Research Council (IRC) funded Research Fellow at the Whitaker Institute for Innovation and Societal Change, National University of Ireland Galway. He also worked for eight years as a journalist in Dublin with the weekly independent publication, Industrial Relations News (IRN), during which time he acquired extensive practical experience of reporting on multiple work and employment issues.

His research involves collaborating with colleagues from different countries from across the world (including USA, Australia, Ireland/other EU countries, Canada, New Zealand). Research interests in the area of work and employment include: employee voice and silence/industrial democracy; trade unions (workplace cooperation, union recognition); the living wage/low pay; sociology of work, industrial relations frames of reference; restructuring, employment and skills in labour markets; decent work/good jobs.

Tony’s research has been funded, as Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator, by various funding sources (European Commission, Irish Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, British Academy, Leverhulme Trust, Research England/UK Research and Innovation, Industry funding). His research has been published in high quality journals, including British Journal of Industrial RelationsBritish Journal of Management, Human Relations, Human Resource Management Journal, Regional Studies, Work Employment & SocietyHis research has also appeared in books, including Dobbins, T. and Prowse, P. (2021). The Living Wage: Advancing a Global Movement. Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/The-Living-Wage-Advancing-a-Global-Movement/Dobbins-Prowse/p/book/9780367514877

Tony has extensive international media/external knowledge exchange experience, including outputs with Al Jazerra, BBC Radio 4, RTE, The Conversation, The Guardian, Huffington Post, i newspaper, Canada Globe and Mail, People Management (CIPD magazine), Sunday Business Post (Ireland), TRT World.

Furthermore, he has significant wider external research experience and impact activities, having been involved in a number of employment relations/HRM projects with various organisations in Europe, Ireland, and UK; including the European Commission/European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), Ireland’s National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO), The Living Wage Foundation, Luton Town Football Club, UK Parliament, and Siemens.

 

 

Teaching

Postgraduate Teaching:

  • HRM and Ethics at Work, MSc HRM

Undergraduate Teaching:

  • International HRM

Research

Tony’s main research interests in work and employment relations include: employee voice, silence, and industrial democracy (including the role of trade unions, management-labour cooperation); the sociology of work, including industrial relations frames of reference; regulation of employment (expertise in European employment relations, EU and UK employment regulation – notably on employee information & consultation at work); the impact of economic restructuring on skills and employment in labour markets, including redundancies/downsizing; the real living wage, including in UK football clubs; decent work/good jobs; the future of work, including research with the UK Parliament (Parliamentary Academic Fellow), the impact of Covid on the future of work, new digital social media technologies and work relations. Tony is a member of collaborative international research groups with some of the leading scholars in the field of HRM, Work and Employment from across the world. Current/ongoing research projects/networks:

i) Employee Voice/Information and Consultation of Employees/Organisational Silence: Collaborative Irish Research Council (IRC) and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) research project since 2008 on employee information and consultation/employee voice provisions on the island of Ireland. Tony is part of a team of researchers from Ireland, the UK and beyond, which includes:

Prof. Tony Dundon (University of Limerick, Ireland/University of Manchester, UK);

Prof. Jimmy Donaghey (University of New South Wales, Australia);

Prof. Adrian Wilkinson (Griffith University, Australia);

Dr. Niall Cullinane (Queens University Belfast, UK);

Dr. Eugene Hickland (Dublin City University, Ireland).

The team publish numerous articles in many of the top journals in the area of HRM, Work and Employment on an ongoing basis. Some of the work is summarised in an impact case published in 2020 by University of Limerick, Republic of Ireland: “Who speaks for whom at work: worker voice and social dialogue”. https://www.ul.ie/research/who-speaks-whom-work-worker-voice-and-social-dialogue

ii) Industrial and economic democracy: In addition to the above, Tony has research interests in labour-management cooperation, trade union recognition.

iii) The Real Living Wage: Tony is collaborating with Prof. Peter Prowse (Sheffield Hallam Business School, UK) on grant funded research on the living wage, low pay, including in UK professional football clubs. This includes a case study of the real living wage at Luton Town Football Club. They edited a new book on the living wage around the world, published by Routledge in 2021. Tony also recently began a research project with Dr. Jonathan Lavelle and colleagues at the University of Limerick, Ireland, on the living wage in Ireland. Initially, this will involve interviewing key stakeholders about the Irish living wage.

iv) The Future of Work: Tony is involved in a number of new research initiatives relating to the futures of work:

One element includes his appointment as an ESRC IAA funded Parliamentary Academic Fellow with the UK Parliament, ‘Post COVID-19 policies for the future of work and employment’, (July 1st 2021-June 30th 2022). This has generated two research briefing papers for UK Parliament.

Another aspect includes editing a Special Issue in the Industrial Relations (Berkeley) journal, ‘Comparative Impacts of the COVID-19 Crisis on Work and Employment’, with the following co-editors: Dr. Stewart Johnstone, University of Strathclyde, UK; Dr. Marta Kahancová, Central European Labour Studies Institute, Slovakia; Dr. Ryan Lamare, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA; Prof. Adrian Wilkinson, Griffith University, Australia.

Another new future of work research project involves collaborative research with Siemens on the topic of ‘Employee-led flexible working at Siemens’, involving colleagues at University of Birmingham (Dr Dan Wheatley, Dr. Ben Hopkins, Prof. Matthew Broome, Dr Owen Powell, and HR contacts at Siemens UK. (June 2021-May 2022 and possibly ongoing). A report for the project was published/sent to Siemens: ‘Well-being, Remote Working and Employee-led Flexibility at Siemens Plc: Informing the Post-Covid-19 Era’.

Tony is also involved in a collaboration from 2021 relating to work experiences during Covid, ‘The ‘autonomy paradox’ facing knowledge professionals WFH during Covid’, with the following co-authors: Dr. Neve Abgeller (University of Birmingham, UK); Prof. Reinhard Bachmann (SOAS, University of London, UK); Prof. Deirdre Anderson (Cranfield University, UK). An article has been accepted in Economic and Industrial Democracy.

Finally, together with Dr Xuebing Cao and Dr Will Foster (both at Keele Business School, UK),Tony is involved in projects relating to decent work in the Midlands. The first is project on ‘Decent work in time of Covid: policy implications and challenges for the Midlands’ in 2021/22. The project explores the decent work policy implications and challenges for the English Midlands region in response to the current coronavirus crisis by creating novel opportunities for a better understanding of the perspectives of key stakeholders in the region on decent work policy development. The project has been awarded a Research England Strategic Priorities QR Grant of £13,723.58.

The second is a UKRI Research England Policy Support Fund, Midlands Good Work Charter: advancing employment policy and regional innovation in post-Covid Midlands, (funding £11,480.27). PI: Dr Xuebing (Jack) Cao, Co-Is: Professor Will Foster (Keele) and Professor Tony Dobbins (Birmingham). March – July 2022. The outputs will be to (1) support Acas to launch a Midland Good Work Charter, (2) help the Good Work Charter new webpage, and (3) hold other Good Work charter activities such as interviews and meetings. 

v) The sociology of work: research in this area focuses on industrial relations frames of reference on workplace conflict and resistance. Tony has supervised PhD research on the comparative contexts of labour disputes in the UK (London Underground) and the Republic of Ireland (Dublin Bus), and this collaboration continues as one of his former PhD students Emma Hughes is now a Lecturer in HRM at University of Liverpool Management School, UK.

Tony is also collaborating in research on social media use, managerial surveillance and employee sousveillance and resistance, with Claire Taylor at Sheffield Business School, UK, and an article has been published in New, Technology Work and Employment.

vi) Impact of economic restructuring on employment/redundancies and skills in the labour market: The main aspect of this research comprises ongoing interdisciplinary research project with Dr. Alexandra Plows, from social sciences at Bangor University, now employed by the Welsh Government. It includes examining the labour market impact of economic restructuring and redundancies in industries like aluminium manufacture and nuclear power generation on workforces and the sustainability of local communities in North Wales. This project is contributing to wider impact – notably advancing understanding, and links with stakeholders, about the regional impact of labour market restructuring. In particular, what are the labour market experiences/trajectories of workers made redundant? What interventions are required to improve matching of supply and demand in labour markets?

This has generated in three publications in journals – most recently an article has been published in Regional Studies.

Another element of this research agenda is restructuring, redundancies and downsizing with Prof. Adrian Wilkinson (Griffith University, Australia), and Dr. Stewart Johnstone (University of Strathclyde).

vii) European industrial relations and working conditions (European Observatory of Working Life, EurWORK), restructuring and management of change (European Monitoring Centre on Change, EMCC), quality of life (European Observatory on Quality of Life (EurLIFE). Tony has been involved with this European Commission funded EU-wide comparative research network project with Industrial Relations News in various capacities since 1998. He has submitted numerous research reports and provided information reporting services on: quality of work and employment, industrial relations, and restructuring and management of change. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Dublin. European Commission DG V (www.eurofound.ie).

Grant capture and international research consultancy

Tony has a track record of applying for and attracting grant funding from a wide variety of bodies for multiple research projects, including as Principal Investigator.

·       Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact Acceleration Account funding for Parliamentary Academic Fellow (2021-2022). £7414.

·       Siemens Workplace Wellbeing project.  £37,527.67. Industry funded, Siemens. Awarded June 2021 (2021-2022).

  • British Academy/Leverhulme Trust small grant, £9,981 (2019-2022): The ethics of living wages for low-paid staff in UK professional football clubs. Awarded March 2019. Principal Investigator.
  • UKRI Research England Policy Support Fund, Midlands Good Work Charter: advancing employment policy and regional innovation in post-Covid Midlands, (£11,480.27). PI: Dr Xuebing (Jack) Cao, Co-Is: Professor Will Foster (Keele) and Professor Tony Dobbins (Birmingham). March-July 2022.  Awarded March 2022.

·       ‘Decent work in time of Covid: policy implications and challenges for the Midlands’. Awarded a Research England (UKRI) Strategic Priorities QR Grant of £13,723.58. Co-Investigator (Awarded November 2020).

  • ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA), £13,875 (with Alex Plows, Social Sciences) for ‘Labour Market Summit II’. Awarded December 2015. Co-Investigator.
  • British Academy/Leverhulme Trust small grant, £10,000 (2014-2016): Anticipatory responses to plant closure and redundancy in the Welsh nuclear power industry. Awarded June 2013. Principal Investigator.
  • €1,500,000 (1998-current): European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Dublin. European Commission DG V. Sub-contractor/Co-investigator. https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/

Framework contract for provision of scheduled and on-request reporting services – Network of Eurofound Correspondents – Ireland: industrial relations and working conditions (European Observatory of Working Life, EurWORK), restructuring and management of change (European Monitoring Centre on Change, EMCC), quality of life (European Observatory on Quality of Life (EurLIFE). I have been centrally involved in this EU-funded project for over 20 years, with Industrial Relations News, Ireland. Six successive four-year competitive tender contracts have been won. The previous tender awarded in 2018 is worth €246,000 (for the period 2019-2022: https://ted.europa.eu/TED/notice/udl?uri=TED:NOTICE:141514-2018:HTML:EN:HTML&tabId=1&tabLang=en)

  • €4000 (2008-2012): Research consultancy work for writing and subsequently updating ‘A Guide to Employment Law in Ireland,’ XPertHR European Employment Review. 
  • €3000 (2009): Research consultancy work for writing ‘The Global Labour Challenge: collective bargaining outcomes and prospects in key world economies’. Brussels European Employee Relations Consultants and HR Policy Association.
  • €3000 (2009): Research consultancy work for interviewing stakeholders and writing: ‘The Print Industry Fights Back: the story of Ireland’s Print & Packaging Forum’. The National Centre for Partnership and Performance, Department of the Taoiseach, Dublin, Ireland.
  • €5,132 (2008-2009): Research consultancy work on Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) project on ‘Line managers as a resource for change and innovation’. National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO), Department of the Taoiseach, Dublin, Ireland.

 

 

 

Other activities

  • President of British Universities Industrial Relations Association (BUIRA);
  • Visiting Professor at Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick, Republic of Ireland;
  • Visiting Professor at Centre for Labour Studies, University of Malta;
  • PhD external examinations at University of Western Australia, University of Manchester, Newcastle University, Keele University, Sheffield Hallam;
  • External examiner for UG and PG taught programmes at Dublin City University and University of Limerick, Republic of Ireland;
  • External examiner for Bachelor in Work and Human Resources at Centre for Labour Studies, University of Malta.
  • Grant assessor for British Academy/Leverhulme Trust, and Research Council of Norway;
  • External assessor for academic promotion panels at Cardiff University, University of Limerick;
  • Member of British Academy of Management (BAM), British Sociological Association (BSA), British Universities Industrial Relations Association (BUIRA), Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE);
  • Affiliate of Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD);
  • Fellow of Higher Education Academy;
  • Academic member of Research associate of MPOWER - Massey People, Organisation, Work and Employment Research hub, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand;
  • Research associate of Whitaker Institute for Innovation and Societal Change, NUI Galway, Ireland.
  • Parliamentary Academic Fellow in the UK Parliament Council Member of International Labor and Employment Relations AssocIation (ILERA)
  • Council Member of International Labor and Employment Relations AssocIation (ILERA)

Publications

Recent publications

Book

Dobbins, T & Prowse, P (eds) 2021, The Living Wage: Advancing a Global Movement. 1st edn, Routledge, London. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003054078

Article

Dobbins, T, Johnstone, S, Kahancová, M, Lamare, R & Wilkinson, A 2023, 'Comparative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on work and employment—Why industrial relations institutions matter', Industrial Relations. https://doi.org/10.1111/irel.12328

Dobbins, T & Plows, A 2022, 'Contesting the politics of neoliberal resilience: regional labour market resilience from a workers’ perspective', Regional Studies, vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 26-40. https://doi.org/10.1080/00343404.2022.2052274

Donaghey, J, Cullinane, N, Dundon, T, Dobbins, T & Hickland, E 2022, 'Employee choice of voice and non-union worker representation', Industrial Relations Journal. https://doi.org/10.1111/irj.12383

Abgeller, N, Bachmann, R, Dobbins, T & Anderson, D 2022, 'Responsible autonomy: the interplay of autonomy, control and trust for knowledge professionals working remotely during COVID-19', Economic and Industrial Democracy. https://doi.org/10.1177/0143831X221140156

Hughes, E & Dobbins, T 2021, 'Frontier of control struggles in British and Irish public transport', European Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 327-344. https://doi.org/10.1177/0959680120929137

Taylor, C & Dobbins, T 2021, 'Social media: a (new) contested terrain between sousveillance and surveillance in the digital workplace', New Technology, Work and Employment, vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 263-284. https://doi.org/10.1111/ntwe.12206

Hickland, E, Cullinane, N, Dobbins, T, Dundon, T & Donaghey, J 2020, 'Employer Silencing in a Context of Voice Regulations: Case Studies of Non-Compliance', Human Resource Management Journal, vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 537-552. https://doi.org/10.1111/1748-8583.12285

Dobbins, T, Cullinane, N & Sheehan, B 2020, 'Ireland's conundrum on union bargaining rights: assessing the Industrial Relations Amendment Act 2015', Industrial Relations Journal. https://doi.org/10.1111/irj.12281

Dobbins, T, Hughes, E & Dundon, T 2020, '‘Zones of contention’ in industrial relations: Framing pluralism as praxis', Journal of Industrial Relations. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022185620957700

Chapter

Dobbins, T & Dundon, T 2020, Non-union employee representation. in Handbook of Research on Employee Voice, Second Edition. Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., pp. 378-396. https://doi.org/10.4337/9781788971188.00030

Abstract

Hughes, E, Dobbins, T & Merkl-Davies, D 2019, 'Moral economy, solidarity and labour process struggle in Irish public transport', Economic and Industrial Democracy. https://doi.org/10.1177/0143831X19891235

Book/Film/Article review

Dobbins, T 2018, 'Reconstructing Solidarity: Labour Unions, Precarious Work, and the Politics of Institutional Change in EuropeVirginiaDoellgast, NathanLillie, and ValeriaPulignano (eds) Oxford University Press Publications, 2018, 250 pp., £60.00. ISBN: 9780198791843', Industrial Relations Journal, vol. 49, no. 3, pp. 295-296. https://doi.org/10.1111/irj.12216

Commissioned report

Dobbins, T 2022, Good work: Policy and research on the quality of work in the UK. <https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-9561/>

Dobbins, T 2021, Flexible working: remote and hybrid work. Commons Library Research Briefing, no. CBP-9391, House of Commons. <https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-9391/>

View all publications in research portal

Expertise

Tony’s key research areas are labour market supply and demand, workplace democracy, living wage, low pay, employee voice and silence, trade unions and how the employment relationship is regulated