The main focus ofhis research during the past thirty years as an academic has been concerned with the changing patterns of rights and regulation within labour & employment relations and human resource management. Much of this work has a comparative and international perspective. The work deals with the position and role of regulation and institutions (public and private) in the context of globalisation, increasing managerialism, and socio-economic uncertainty.
In the first instance, he has researched on the changing identity and structures of industrial relations and human resource management: the impact of new forms of management and workplace organisation on workers and trade unions in terms of individualisation and fragmentation, the emergence of new frameworks of firm level regulation such as social partnership and market facing representation, the impact of organisational practices such as quality management and teamworking on worker politics, and the general globalisation of industrial relations and human resource management in a range of sectors such as automobiles, financial services, food manufacturing, postal services, chemicals, and airlines - and how they challenge traditional forms of regulation and representation.
Secondly, he has studied such changes through a range of research projects in relation to questions of deregulation, privatisation and marketisation in terms of work, employment and management in the public sector and privatised industries across various countries, e.g. the health services, postal services, the airline sector, local state administration. The emergence of the strategy and discourse of human resource management, the impact of further Americanisation and neo-liberal agendas within management and organisational practices, and new forms of organisational participation are the subject of a range of his empirical and analytical papers. He has a strong interest in the changing role of the state in relation to these issues and how the state has re-shaped employment relations. Hence he has worked extensively on the question and challenge of 'soft regulation', new forms of state intervention and the role of the labour inspectorate.
Thirdly, a large part of this work also focuses on the broader social and political context of change in terms of new forms of labour organisation and the fragmentation of the political. This dimension has been developed in terms of the changing nature of collectivism at work, trade union renewal and modernisation, new forms of labour networking/organisation, and more recently the changing composition of collective voice mechanisms in work and employment in terms of gender, migration and racial/ethnic minorities, and health and safety issues. His work explores the way organised labour and workers respond to economic, organisational and social change and fragmentation through new forms of representation and engagement. At the heart of this work is the way the politics of work and employment is broadening around a 'new' set of issues and worker experiences in what is a more difficult and challenging economic and social environment.
Significant aspects of this research have been financed by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Leverhulme Trust, the European Commission, the Anglo-German Foundation, the British Council and various trade union and public policy bodies such as ACAS and BIS. He works in an individual capacity and also with colleagues at various institutions in the UK, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and Malaysia. There are a range of public reports and public interventions in terms of his work that complement the academic articles and texts he has produced. He has a long forty year history of working with the labour movement on a range of issues such as new management practices, health and safety developments, social and equality rights, and others.