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The Europeanization of Industrial Relations in the Service Sector

Problems and Perspectives in a Heterogeneous Field


Stefan Rüb and Hans-Wolfgang Platzer

The service sector has not always received the attention it merits in industrial relations research when set against its enormous economic significance. One factor in this is certainly the highly diverse nature of services. Research attention has also lagged behind long-standing processes of transnationalization undertaken by service sector companies and the challenges these pose for policy and practice in the field of employment relations. This study by Stefan Rüb and Hans-Wolfgang Platzer represents a pioneering effort to remedy this gap. Through six named company case studies, Rüb and Platzer explore the scope and background for transnational employee relations conflicts and the mechanisms that have emerged to resolve and anticipate these, highlighting the complex relationships between employee representatives, management and trade unions.
The choice of case studies aims to capture a broad range of service sector employment, in terms of both working conditions and employment relations arrangements. As well as covering a number of key sectors, the choice of home countries of the selected firms also aims to capture the impact of national influences for the main industrial relations models in Europe. Overall, the study offers insights into the complexities of the Europeanization of company-level industrial relations in a dynamic field now also confronted by the convulsions unleashed by the Eurozone crisis.
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Chapter 5: The scope and limits of extending a national model into the European space: The case of AXA


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The scope and limits of extending a national model into the European space: The case of AXA

5.1 The AXA group

AXA is an international insurance group headquartered in France. In 2012, group turnover was €90.1 billion and profits €4.2 billion (AXA, 2012: 4). With a total of 160,000 employees (of which 113,000 are permanent staff), AXA is one of the world’s largest insurance firms (Wikipedia, 2014b).

Beginning as a regional French insurance firm, and renaming itself AXA in the mid-1980s, the company has grown very dynamically over the past thirty years. The current AXA group has emerged from a number of domestic and foreign acquisitions, some spectacular in scale. These included: the French insurance group Compagnie Parisienne de Garantie in 1978, the French Drouot Group in 1982, and the Présence Group, also French, in 1986; the US insurer Equitable Companies Incorporated in 1992; a majority stake in the Australian insurer National Mutual Holdings in 1995; the merger with and incorporation of what was, at the time, the largest French insurance group, UAP in 1997,1 a firm double the size of AXA; the acquisition of the US asset manager Sanford C. Bernstein and the Japanese life insurer Nippon Dantai Life (both in 2000); and takeovers of the American insurance group MONY in 2004, the Swiss Winterthur-Gruppe in 2006; Seguros in Mexico in 2008; and some parts of HSBC in Hong Kong, Singapore and...

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