CfP: Remuneration, workers and employers organisations (session at the III ELHN Conference)

Call for Papers, deadline 10 October 2018

3rd Conference of the European Labour History Network (ELHN)
Amsterdam, 19-21 September 2019

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

Coordinators: Stefano Bellucci (; Andrea Caracausi (; Corine Maitte (; Michel Pigenet (; Brian Shaev (

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 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 one from 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?


How did different forms of remuneration co-exist 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? (For instance, the return of the piece-wage payment at the end of the 19th century in Europe).


As noted above, a wage can be defined in many different ways, but what are the determinants of wage-levels? Is it necessarily “the market”? What has been the role of customs or usages? What role has the idea of a “just wage” played? In some instances, daily or hourly workers could be paid more than those engaged over longer periods; what is the relationship between length of employment and remuneration?


Apart from quantity and quality of labour, it is possible to look at remuneration by taking into consideration other non-market-related factors, such as the organization and cohesiveness of the workforce or the level of unemployment in a given society or sector. For some scholars and intellectuals, these social factors are more relevant than market factors for understanding remuneration. The cohesiveness of the workforce implies multiple aspects such as levels of self-consciousness, the politics of labour action – negotiations or strikes – and the political landscape in which production processes took place – in different periods of time and space. What does history teach us about social struggle versus bargaining in the making of remuneration? When and why does one prevail over the other?


Guilds, corporative and union organisations are private institutions, often legally recognized. Other organizations, like brotherhoods or compagnonnages, were less formally recognized but played an important role in bargaining conflicts. Studying the agency of these associations is very important to understand how remuneration is determined in various economic sectors: from agriculture to industry, from artisanal production to services, and so on. Unions and corporative organisations are normally considered “conservative” actors because of their presumed conciliatory and exclusive nature. Is this always the case? What is the role of workers organizations in the workplace? Was their national and international activism to the benefit of the workers they represented?

We welcome papers or session proposals that address these questions using case studies or comparative approaches, especially over a longue durée and/or from comparative perspectives. Case studies from all over the world are welcome.

Deadlines for abstracts and submissions

Please send a proposal before 10 October 2018

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.


The 3rd Conference of the European Labour History Network (ELHN) will take place on 19-21 September 2019 in Amsterdam @ the International Institute of Social History, Cruquiusweg 31, Amsterdam, The Netherlands