CfP: Remunerating labour and bargaining for remuneration: models, modes and conflicts at the ELHN-WORCK Conference 2021

Call for Papers, deadline 20 October 2020

4th Conference of the European Labour History Network (ELHN)
Vienna, August 30-1 September 2021

Remuneration, workers and employers organisations: bargaining and struggle in the longue durée
ELHN Working Group Renumeration and Bargaining

Coordinators: Stefano Bellucci (; Andrea Caracausi (; Corine Maitte (; Amal Shahid (

What is remuneration? How is remuneration determined? Remuneration for/of labour has taken many forms over the centuries and millennia, and has been the result of complex socio-economic relations which have included the family, the owners of capital and the labour force. Remuneration can differ according to the way in which it is calculated, for example time-, piece- or task-rate; or the way it is paid, for example in kind, in cash or mixed forms. Payments can be regular, for example on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis, and they can be made in advance or after the accomplishment of a certain task. Remuneration may include “benefits” like housing, clothing, food and lodging, but also financial aids and gratuities delivered exceptionally. Fines, penalties, absences, poor quality of work, rents of working tools or housing can reduce remuneration levels. One could state that “unfree” labour – such as slaves, convicts, indentured servants, etc. – should also be included in the analysis of remuneration in the form of the reproduction of labour force, for example through food and lodging. Some forms of remuneration are more attractive for some workers than for others; for instance, today, remuneration can include profit sharing or stock options in the company, whether it be a cooperative, multinational or other corporate entity. This variety of forms of remuneration is often the result of power-relations emanating from struggles and conflicts between formal and informal organizations, all of which are key players to be analysed.

The aim of this working group (WG) is to analyse this variety of forms of remuneration and its diverse social and economic contexts in a long-term perspective, while rejecting any teleological approach that presumes the succession of some forms to others. Many forms of remuneration that are very distant from one another in time often have similarities and the entangled histories between them are numerous over time and space. Can we say that kind-based remuneration has disappeared today, even in the capitalist world?

The WG Remuneration and Bargaining welcomes papers on the following two trajectories from a global and/or historical perspective:


  • What were/are the different means and methods of remunerating labourers in different contexts in labour history? How did they transform and connect over time and space?
  • How and why did different forms of remuneration develop historically?
  • Which forms of remuneration co-existed in the same working place, enterprise and/or sector (agriculture, mining, textile, etc.)? Why have they often been adopted for the same job?
  • Why did some forms of remuneration return across centuries and then disappear and come back again?
  • How was/is remuneration organised in Asia, the Americas, Africa and Europe?
  • Why did/do employers combine different forms of remunerations? For instance, why have some labourers paid in cash and others in kind or services? And why are some labourers paid in cash and others in mixed or non-monetary wages, even in the same place and at the same time?


  • Forms and levels of remuneration are often the result of a process of bargaining between different interests and forces.
  • How did bargaining develop in a region or a sector or a workplace? What are/were the effects on remuneration? Which kind of remuneration did this bargaining between employers and workers produce? In case of wages in money, did bargaining determine wage levels?
  • Bargaining produced also organisational structures for the protection of interests of both, the employers (e.g. employers organisations, guilds, etc.) and the employees (e.g. trade unions, mutualistic organisations, etc.). The history of these organisations is important to understand labour history globally: Therefore, the WG welcomes proposals from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas on these issues.
  • Bargaining organisations (formal such as guilds, corporative and union organisations, and less formal such as brotherhoods or compagnonnages) are a feature of the realm of work that both belongs to and precedes the industrial revolution. The histories of workers organisations is a core element of labour history and papers that shed light on labour organisations are very welcome to this network.
  • Finally, remuneration has been an object of contention and produced social conflict. Therefore, the WG also welcomes studies on labour conflicts in history (e.g. strikes, walkouts, boycotts, desertions, etc.) that are related to remuneration.

Deadlines for abstracts and submissions: Please send a proposal before 20 October 2020.

How to apply: Please send the proposal to this email address:

This should include:

  • title
  • abstract (200-300 words)
  • name and surname, current affiliation (if any) and contact details (preferred email) of the proponent.

If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to contact us.